BOISE, Idaho — A number of child care centers across the Treasure Valley closed their doors Monday and took to the Capitol steps to call on Idaho legislators to approve up to $99 million in federal aid before the session wraps up. Some of the money that would help Idaho's child care system.
About 25 different providers representing nearly 5,000 different children stood on the front steps and sat in the galleries of the Capitol reminding lawmakers to pass the ARPA child care funding money that is still awaiting approval from the legislature.
“The ARPA funds are helping us not only hire people but stay in business and to really be able to serve Idaho because if we don’t go to work, other people don’t go to work,” Giraffe Laugh Child Care Center Director Lori Fascilla said.
As a result of the pandemic, about 200 child care centers in Idaho have closed due to a lack of funding and resources, which leaves parents with limited options. Child care providers say this money is the difference between keeping their doors open or shutting down.
“Our workforce still isn’t really back yet and so our centers aren’t completely full, but we have our basic costs and our employees so forth. At this point, we're just not able to operate without some assistance,” Fascilla said.
Lawmakers voted down the original bill on the first day back in session after the recess. Some had issues with the $34 million in federal COVID-19 relief money for child care.
“How many child care providers are we talking about because that’s a sizable amount of money,” Stanley Republican Rep. Dorothy Moon said in the debate.
“That's the funds that are going to be used to enhance child care in Idaho by these loans to childcare providers to help them stay in business. I know those providers in my district have really struggled to try to stay in business with so many kids staying out of their programs,” Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy, a Republican from Moscow, said in the debate.
That decision has led to staff and parents calling for legislators to stay at the capitol until they make that money available to these programs.
“Please don’t go home until you approve these funds. It's just incredibly important to our industry, incredibly important to our families and most important for children in Idaho,” Fascilla said.
The Joint Finance Appropriations Committee will meet Tuesday and lawmakers inside the statehouse say the funding could be on the agenda. You can watch it live here.