By Laura Hancock
Gov. Mike DeWine signed a bill that will provide public- and private-sector entities $4 billion in coronavirus relief money, but vetoed a provision that child advocates said would have diminished child-care quality for low-income families in the state.
Under House Bill 169, K-12 schools will get $2.3 billion and private schools will get $150.1 million.
The nursing home industry will receive $300 million for direct-care workforce attraction and retention. Care facilities for developmentally disabled Ohioans will receive $142 million for the same workforce needs.
HB 169 provides police and other first responders $250 million.
Another $639 million is earmarked for child-care providers, who have taken out loans to stay in business during the pandemic since fewer children are enrolled in the centers.
The Ohio Senate made a change to HB 169 to temporarily suspend the Step Up to Quality program, requiring facilities that accept public child-care funding to provide certain levels of owner and employee training and continuing education.
Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman argued that suspending the program through 2022 would open more spots for children as the pandemic continues to rage. Ohioans who haven’t returned to work have cited a lack of child care as one of the reasons keeping them at home.
However, child care advocates have said this will result in a two-tiered system, with children from wealthier families being more prepared for kindergarten than those from lower-income families, since publicly funded daycares wouldn’t have to participate in Step Up to Quality. Besides, the suspension was to start around the same time a study committee had begun to look at the program to determine how improvements can be made, they noted.
DeWine, in his veto message to lawmakers, agreed with the sentiments of child advocates…
…Groundwork Ohio, an early childhood education advocate, championed the $639 million that will go to child-care providers, as well as the line-item veto.
“Ohio’s quality child care system gives parents the tools they need to make decisions about the quality care they want, need, and deserve,” the organization said in a message.