By: Gongwer Access article
With the public testimony part of the budget process winding down, advocates continued their call Thursday for the expansion of access to publicly funded child care.
As the Senate Finance heard testimony on health and human services issues in the two-year spending bill (HB 110), witnesses told the panel that expanding early childhood education access will also support the state's workforce.
Lynanne Gutierrez, assistant director of Groundwork Ohio, urged the committee to expand initial eligibility for publicly funded child care to 150% of the federal poverty level, serving an additional 14,000 children in the system.
"This policy choice comes at a time when we have an incredible amount of federal dollars coming to Ohio to help secure the child care system because of the COVID-19 pandemic," she said. "Over a billion dollars in fact through the American Rescue Plan is coming to Ohio specifically for child care, $499 million of which is intended to increase child care assistance to families."
Katie Kelly, executive director of PRE4CLE, said the organization had seen an eight percentage point increase in kindergarten readiness in Cleveland during the six years before the pandemic.
"We think it is critical to increase access to high-quality child care through increasing eligibility to 150% of the federal poverty level," she said.
Families are struggling to afford high quality early education programs, she said. "This is one of the best, most efficient and most effective things we could do to support families, our workforce and our future workforce."