House bill encouraging local governments to meet child care challenges moves to full Senate

Republished from Kentucky Lantern


FRANKFORT — A Kentucky House bill that encourages local governments to examine available zoning for child care centers received unanimous approval by a Senate committee Tuesday. 

House Bill 561 cleared the House in late February. Now that it cleared the Senate Families and Children Committee 9-0, it can go to the Senate floor. 

“A lot of people have talked about how one of the biggest impediments to opening child care centers is local zoning and land use policies,” said bill sponsor Rep. Samara Heavrin, R-Leitchfield. 

The bill requires the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to set up a Certified Child Care Communities Designation Program. Local governments could qualify for the designation by demonstrating they have developed actionable strategies for meeting child care challenges.

Kentucky’s child care industry — which some are working to rebrand under an “early childhood education” umbrella — is a major theme in the 2024 legislative session as federal COVID-19 dollars that helped stabilize the industry during the last few years are running out. This leaves many centers to cut pay for their workers, raise tuition for parents, cut services and even close. 

Without help from the General Assembly, Kentucky could lose more than a fifth of its child care providers, the Lantern has reported. And even with the state help that is proposed in the House budget — a $52 million a year increase — experts say about 16,000 kids could lose access to child care in 2024. 

West Kentucky Republican Sen. Danny Carroll has pitched a $300 million, two-year bill to stabilize and expand early childhood education, which child care experts in the state have widely praised, but which has yet to get a Senate vote

“Increasing access to child care benefits everybody,” Heavrin said in Tuesday’s committee. “It benefits kids, working families, our workforce and our economy.”  

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