Sherrod Brown

06/07/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/07/2023 08:46

Brown, Marshall Lead Bill to Expand Childcare in Rural America

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Roger Marshall (R-KS), and Tina Smith (D-MN) and U.S. Representatives Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-WA-3) Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-OR-5), Tracey Mann (R-KS-1), and Yadira Caraveo (D-CO-8) introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Expanding Childcare in Rural America (ECRA) Act of 2023 to improve the availability and quality, and lower the cost, of childcare in agricultural and rural communities.

"Child care is far too expensive and too hard to find for Ohio families, and parents in rural Ohio face unique challenges. Farm communities often lack enough transportation infrastructure and don't have enough high-quality child care providers, and rural parents are more likely to work non-traditional hours," said Sen. Brown, a senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. "These are commonsense, bipartisan steps to make child care more affordable and accessible in rural communities, so that more Ohio parents can support their families."

"Access to childcare is a top priority for both families and employers in every corner of Kansas," Sen. Marshall said. "With a few changes to the USDA's Rural Development programs, which benefit our rural communities, we can build the necessary childcare infrastructure that puts our children on the right educational path and provides them with a strong foundation for the future."

"Access to childcare is essential, but for too many families living in rural places, it is out of reach", said Sen. Smith, a member of the Senate Education Committee. "I've heard from Minnesotans who have to drive 50 miles to take their kids to childcare and from providers who are struggling to find and keep staff. This bill will help improve the quality, availability and affordability of childcare in rural communities to help ensure that parents have the ability to pursue their careers."

"Child care in rural communities like mine is next to impossible to find and afford. Before coming to Congress, my husband and I brought our son to our auto repair shop most days because there were no other child care options available," said Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez. "Our bipartisan bill will make child care more accessible and affordable in rural communities so families can get the support they need no matter where they live."

"During the two Farm Bill listening sessions I've held with Oregon farmers and ranchers, they've raised concerns about a lack of access to child care. I brought this problem to Secretary Vilsack's attention when he was in front of the Agriculture Committee, but it's clear Congress needs to take proactive steps to help these parents. I'm honored to join my colleagues in introducing this bipartisan legislation that directs the USDA to help parents in rural areas find accessible, affordable, and high-quality care for their children," Rep.Chavez-DeRemer said.

"Raising a family is one of the highest callings on earth, and people often choose where to live and work based around that calling," said Rep. Mann. "The men and women who work tirelessly to feed, fuel, and clothe us all deserve to raise their families in a healthy environment full of opportunities where children can grow and learn. With this bill, Congress can improve the quality of life for rural Americans, promote low cost, high quality childcare in agricultural and rural communities, and help those communities attract and retain a vibrant and healthy workforce."

"As a pediatrician, I've seen the toll it takes on families when they don't have affordable, reliable childcare. That burden is even more present in rural communities, where there are fewer providers, and families may have to travel a great distance for childcare. I'm proud to join this bipartisan effort to ensure rural families have access to the low-cost, high-quality childcare they need and deserve," said Rep. Caraveo.

The Expanding Childcare in Rural America Act would direct U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development to authorize andprioritize projects that address the availability, quality, and cost of childcare in agricultural and rural communities through the following programs:

  • The Community Facilities Program offers direct loans, loan guarantees and grants to develop or improve essential public services and facilities in communities across rural America.
  • Community Facilities Technical Assistance and Training Grant offers grants to eligible public bodies and private, nonprofit organizations (such as states, counties, cities, townships, incorporated towns, villages, boroughs, authorities, districts, and Tribes located on Federal or state reservations) to provide technical assistance and/or training in support of the essential community facilities program.
  • The Business & Industry Loan Guarantee Program provides loan guarantees to commercial lenders for loans to eligible rural businesses.
  • The Rural Business Development Grant Program is a competitive grant designed to support targeted technical assistance, training, and other activities leading to the development or expansion of small and emerging private businesses in rural areas that have fewer than 50 employees and less than $1 million in gross revenues.
  • The Rural Innovation Strong Economy Grant Program offers grant assistance to create and augment high-wage jobs, accelerate the formation of new businesses, support industry clusters and maximize the use of local productive assets in eligible low-income rural areas.
  • The Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program provides loans and grants to Microenterprise Development Organizations (MDOs) to provide microloans for microenterprise startups and growth through a Rural Microloan Revolving Fund; and provide training and technical assistance to microloan borrowers and micro entrepreneurs.

The bill would also allow USDA to make awards through intermediaries such as, childcare resource and referral organizations, staffed family childcare networks, and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) with demonstrated expertise in the childcare sector.

The Expanding Childcare in Rural America Act is supported by the Ohio Farm Bureau, Ohio Farmers Union, Corporation for Ohio Appalachian Development, Ohio Association of Child Care Providers, Marshfield Clinic Health System, Bipartisan Policy Center, Save the Children, Early Care and Education Consortium, First Five Years Fund, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farm Medicine Center, First Focus Campaign for Children, National Farmers Union, and KinderCare Learning Companies.

"Finding childcare options that are stable, reliable and affordable is one of the biggest hurdles Ohio farm families face and we appreciate Senator Brown's acknowledgement of that challenge. Bringing this issue to the forefront with his Expanding Childcare in Rural America Act of 2023 will emphasize the importance of this much needed service in rural Ohio, while creating opportunities for farmers and everyone involved on the farm to maintain the essential work they do every day without the heavy burden of constantly needing to find proper care for their children," said the Ohio Farm Bureau.

"If it was feasible to make a living providing quality childcare in rural communities, there would not be a supply problem. The Expanding Childcare in Rural America Act addresses barriers to entry and offers support and resources to potential micropreneurs - thereby enabling America's workforce to go to work. The Corporation for Ohio Appalachian Development appreciates this effort to expand childcare access for working families and commends Senator Brown for making this issue a priority," said Megan Riddlebarger COAD Executive Director.

"The Expanding Childcare in Rural America Act will provide funding to assist rural and agricultural communities in closing the gap in childcare supply. By utilizing existing funding, workforce issues can be addressed, and supply can be increased, enabling child care providers to fully serve working families in these rural communities. The Ohio Association of Child Care Providers (OACCP) is happy to endorse this bill, and excited to support providers in any way. We are the 'workforce behind the workforce," said the Ohio Association of Child Care Providers (OACCP).

"The Expanding Childcare in Rural America Act paves the way for high-quality child care to exist in rural and agricultural communities that have long struggled with severe gaps in supply. This bill opens up existing funding streams to localities that identify child care as a barrier to attracting and retaining a robust and qualified workforce. The Early Care and Education Consortium is proud to endorse this bill, and our members are excited to work with rural and agricultural communities across America to develop scalable solutions that support the needs of working families," said Sage Schaftel, Acting Executive Director, Early Care and Education Consortium (ECEC).

"Rural communities face unique challenges in increasing access to quality child care for families," said Linda Smith, Director of the Bipartisan Policy Center's Early Childhood Initiative. "Not only does limited access to care have long-term impacts on child development, but it also has an immediate impact on economic loss in rural communities. The Expanding Childcare in Rural America Act of 2023 establishes a pathway for rural communities to access capital, increase access to care, and connect families to critical child care resources. We applaud the Senators' bipartisan work championing this issue and look forward to working with members of both parties on continued efforts."

"NFU strongly supports the Expanding Childcare in Rural America Act of 2023. This important legislation tackles the challenges rural families face in accessing quality, affordable childcare. By investing in this bill, we can improve the lives of farm families and their communities and make a lasting impact on rural America," said National Farmers Union President Rob Larew.

"Save the Children has been working with children and families in rural America for over 90 years. So, we know the difference that access to high-quality, affordable child care makes to children, families and their communities. But, despite the overwhelming benefits of high-quality child care, the majority of families living in rural communities don't have access to such programs," says Roy Chrobocinski, Managing Director of Domestic Federal Policy at Save the Children. "That's why Save the Children applauds Senators Brown, Marshall and Smith as they introduce the Expanding Childcare in Rural America Act, which would prioritize high-quality child care in rural communities for USDA Rural Development funding."