BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum, Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford and Department of Human Services (DHS) Executive Director Chris Jones today held roundtable meetings with child care providers and business leaders from across the state to discuss the impacts of North Dakota’s child care shortage and explore ways to increase access to child care to support caregivers, employers and economic growth.
Burgum announced the meetings during his 2022 State of the State address last January as part of a broader effort to address child care challenges related to quality, affordability and accessibility as North Dakota strives to support working parents and compete with other states for workforce.
“We know if we’re going to make progress in our state on solving the workforce issues, then we’ve got to solve the child care issues. We know that workforce is the No. 1 thing that’s holding back the economy in North Dakota,” Burgum said in opening remarks to the business leaders. “We’ve got to increase workforce participation. Part of the way we do that is making sure that we have an opportunity for parents to participate or not drop out of the workforce for X number of years because they can’t afford the child care, it’s not the quality that they want for their kids or it’s not even available.”
Discussion topics included how child care availability affects businesses’ ability to attract and retain qualified employees; obstacles faced by providers in hiring qualified employees and maximizing enrollment capacity; and how the state can best support the stability and success of child care programs to ensure robust workforce participation.
“We’re looking for things you see as an impediment to your business and what might help from a state perspective,” Sanford said in opening remarks to child care providers.
North Dakota has approximately 55,000 children under the age of 5 and more than 30,000 children in licensed child care settings, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and DHS. Last year, the state allocated more than $117 million in federal funding to support North Dakota’s child care sector, which had seen enrollment decrease by roughly one-third during the COVID-19 pandemic. In February, DHS announced expanded eligibility for child care assistance by increasing household income limits to include more working families.
Jones noted that quality, affordable child care can reduce the need for behavioral health services – and the costs associated with them – later on in life, as studies have shown 95 percent of a child’s brain is formed by age 5.
“For families who have both parents in the workforce, their children who have quality child care early on are more successful throughout life,” he said.
Input from today’s meetings will be considered as policy and budget proposals are being developed for potential introduction during the 2023 legislative session.