Child care vote 2-22-21

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The next big chunk of the COVID-19 relief funds that Congress authorized in December and President Trump signed into law on Dec. 27 came up for passage in the full House today, providing $24 million in assistance to child care providers in Idaho amid the pandemic. It passed on a 40-30 vote, though just one House member, Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, debated against it.

“As far as child care getting boosted up when there’s no kids in child care, that’s just capitalism free markets,” Moon told the House. “Either they have kids in there or not. And the folks that are staying home are staying home because they might’ve been non-essential workers, and because of that fact they were already at home watching their kids, at least that’s most of the scenario around my district. So I don’t understand why, with this pandemic kind of waning near the end with vaccinations and herd immunity being attained, that we’re going to be bumping up $24 million for child care which I think has been addressed pretty well by the families.”

Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy, R-Genesee, the bill’s House sponsor, responded, “As we’ve seen, a lot of our businesses have been weakened by decisions that were made throughout this challenge, and I think it’s really important to try to keep our child care providers in business. And this is what this is intended to do.”

The bill still needs Senate passage and the governor’s signature to become law; it’s a supplemental appropriation bill, allowing the federal funds to be spent during the current budget year. The funds are part of nearly $900 million in federal COVID-19 aid to Idaho that was approved in December but has languished awaiting approval during this year’s legislative session. The first big chunk of the money, $175 million in rental assistance, passed the House Friday on a 59-8 vote after House members learned that if Idaho didn’t accept the funds, they’d be reassigned to other states.

The federal legislation actually awarded Idaho $58 million in child care assistance. The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee opted to approve just $24 million of that in a supplemental appropriation bill, with the rest of the money to follow as a line item in the fiscal year 2022 budget. The money is to provide child care for essential personnel during the pandemic; improve both access to and quality of child care in Idaho; and to ensure Idaho’s child care system continues to function through and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

JFAC approved the $24 million supplemental appropriation bill on Feb. 12 on a 16-2 vote, with just Reps. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, and Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, dissenting. You can read my full story here at idahopress.com (subscription required), or pick up Tuesday's print edition of the Idaho Press.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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