Lamont: Childcare Proposals ‘Part of Broader Workforce Plan’
Gov. Ned Lamont took his proposed state budget initiatives for expanding access to childcare services on the road this week.
Released Feb. 8, the $50.5 billion proposed budget includes a mix of state and federal resources to increase funding for Care 4 Kids, the state’s largest childcare program, and tax credits for employers to help employees defray costs.
“Connecticut’s making the biggest investment in childcare in the history of the state,” he said during a Feb. 15 event at the Women’s League Child Development Center in Hartford.
The governor’s budget recommendations call for $14.2 million in 2024 and $53.3 million in 2025 for Care 4 Kids, which helps low and moderate-income families pay for childcare costs.
That will support an increase of 10% for licensed providers and 5% for unlicensed providers in each year of the two-year-budget.
“Childcare programs can pay teachers more, recruit teachers, and cover increasing expenses,” said Office of Early Childhood commissioner Beth Bye.
The funding will allow for more capacity at facilities that help children develop important cognitive and social skills and prepare them for success in school and beyond.
“That is the future workforce there, that is the beginning of our workforce education,” said CBIA president and CEO Chris DiPentima after touring the center’s classrooms with Lamont.
“They’re using cognitive thinking and problem solving, reasoning, all the things that make Connecticut’s workforce the best in the world.”
As an incentive for employers to help with employee childcare costs, Lamont’s proposal provides a 25% corporation business tax credit for any childcare cost subsidies employers provide.
It also incentivizes employers to build new childcare centers through a 25% credit for those associated costs.
“If we’re going to have world-class businesses, which we do, and a world-class workforce, which we do, we need that world-class infrastructure and childcare is a critical part of that,” said DiPentima.
Lamont said the proposals are part of a broader plan to address the state’s worker shortage crisis.
“Folks can’t get back to work unless they can afford to get back to work,” he said.
“And we can’t do it all by ourselves, which is why we’re trying to get the business community involved.”
DiPentima said that “no one should be forced to make that decision or not have a choice between childcare and continuing working.”
“If our parents can’t go to work because they can’t get childcare, we’re not going to have the workers we need, that our businesses need to get their product and services out the door to grow our economy in Connecticut, to create jobs in Connecticut.”
The governor also announced the formation of a blue-ribbon panel focused on designing the next generation of childcare.
“The challenges facing childcare today and the families who need it will not be solved by rate increases or by state government alone,” said Bye.
“The scale and complexity and the challenges require federal response which we have talked to our delegation about and state efforts to maximize what we do have, but we’ll also need businesses and cities and towns to step up.”
The panel will be led by Bye and will include parents, early childhood education experts, business leaders, higher education, public school and childcare providers.
Its long-term goal is building a system that attracts and retains young families, increases workforce participation, enhances educational outcomes for children, improves health and wellness, and prepares Connecticut’s future workforce.
The panel will deliver its plan to the governor by January 2024.
“Childcare is just as important as highways and bridges, broadband, and the rest of the infrastructure that we have,” said DiPentima, who will be part of the panel.
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