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Top industry, elected officials urge full support for Alabama childcare tax credit

One component to the seven-bill Working for Alabama legislative package awaits a vote from the Alabama Senate Committee on Finance and Taxation Education related to an aspect of the state’s low workforce participation rate that hits close to home: Childcare.

Champions of the bill, including Speaker of the House Nathaniel Ledbetter, State Sen. Garlan Gudger, State Rep. Anthony Daniels, CEO of the Alabama Women’s Foundation, Melanie Bridgeforth, and a representative from Toyota each communicated the benefit and urgency of passing the childcare tax credit.

“Even before the current economic challenges, access to affordable childcare, and quality childcare was a pressing issue in Alabama in 2022,” State Sen. Gudger said. “Nearly 85,000 families in the state found themselves without viable childcare options due to staffing shortages, on affordability, or concerns about quality.”

“America’s economic downturn exasperated this situation, transforming Alabama into what can be described as a childcare desert, leaving working families struggling to find adequate and accessible options for childcare. In Alabama, parents make up 35% of the workforce, meaning access to high quality, affordable childcare would boost labor force participation and drive economic economic growth at regional and statewide levels.”

RELATED: Toyota Alabama President: Childcare tax credits in Alabama good for business, great for parents

HB358, passed by the Alabama House unanimously last week, includes employer tax credits and child care center grants available for employers that provide on-site childcare or stipends to employees for childcare expenses up to $600,000 each year. It also creates a credit for childcare providers who participate in the state’s childcare quality rating program and donors to nonprofit childcare providers for facility improvements.

Speaker of the House Nathaniel Ledbetter has been communicating on the workforce issue and related challenges, like childcare, before it became front-and-center for lawmakers this session in the comprehensive workforce package.

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the committee we put together to work on workforce participation,” Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) said. “And one thing we found out, over 43%, Alabamians that are working age do not have a job in our state. Because the growth of the economy, it’s imperative we try to fix that. And one of the things that they identified that’s most important is childcare.”

“That’s amazing, over 85,000 families in our state need some type of childcare. So, it only makes sense that women are wanting to get back in the workforce — but when you’re paying $12,000, you’re somewhere in the neighborhood of that for childcare, and you got a couple of kids, it makes it hard,” he said. “For a single mom, it’s almost impossible.”

Melanie Bridgeforth, CEO of the Alabama Women’s Foundation, a group that has reliably raised awareness around a lack of affordable, accessible, and quality childcare in the state, said moving the tax credit forward in the Alabama Senate as passed by the House is critical to families — and voters.

RELATED: Alabama, national leaders strategize childcare access at annual Women’s Foundation research event

“For years, we have been shining the light on the most important and critical issues barriers to labor force participation for women and families. We’ve been organizing tens of thousands of women allies, business, philanthropists across the state on the issue of childcare, and many other solutions that affect women’s economic mobility and families intergenerational economic mobility — but it’s not up to us,” Bridgeforth said.

“The people with the power to ensure change work in this building. They are your elected officials and how they choose to vote on the childcare tax credit plan will soon tell us where we all fall in their priorities. Alabama voters, employers childcare businesses, moms and dads are watching. Members of the House have already shown tremendous leadership and thoughtful leadership. They’ve done their part now. It’s up to the Senate to move House Bill 358 with no changes.”

RELATED: Working for Alabama: Lawmakers advance bills to position state workforce, economy for gains

House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, who carried the bill in the House, also spoke passionately about finally solving a challenge in a way that addresses childcare accessibility, affordability — and quality.

“I do think that this piece of legislation is going to help those families get back into the workforce, it’s going to help businesses be able to either build out a facility on site or partner with the provider in order to provide expand access to childcare,” Daniels (D-Huntsville) said.

“And then the credits will also help those working families be able to get some money toward paying for childcare. And so the accessibility, the affordability is important. And then the quality and meaning looking at the quality and looking at the the higher the credit, the better, the more better the quality is a five star facility will receive up to the highest amount possible an individual an individual for reimbursement, either their employer can give it directly to them in their check, or they can pay directly to the provider.”

Sen. Gudger expressed an urgency and need to zero-in on a solution across chambers in the five final days of the 2024 legislative session.

“Just to let you know, it is in the Senate currently, it supposed to be coming to committee very soon, I’m hoping this week. But if you’re listening out there, call your Senator. Tell them, it’s time to bring this up. It’s time to vote,” Gudger said.

Grayson Everett is the state and political editor for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @Grayson270

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