By: Sarah Katherine Massey, Director of Talent, Education & Quality of Life Policy, Florida Chamber of Commerce
According to Untapped Potential in FL, a 2023 report released by the Florida Chamber Foundation and the National Chamber Foundation, nearly $5.4 billion in economic value is lost annually in Florida due to working parents having to be away from their jobs to care for children under the age of six. In fact, the report found that the lack of access to childcare was the leading reason parents left their jobs in the 12 months prior. This research report has led to a pair of bills moving through the legislative process to address the availability and affordability of childcare and early learning.
Currently, Florida’s School Readiness Program provides financial assistance for childcare to working parents or parents pursuing an education that are earning at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty line. This means a single parent household earning just $31,000 a year would earn too much to qualify for the program.
SB 916 and HB 929 raise the eligibility threshold of the program to 55 percent of the State Median Income, a change that will add over 10,000 students to the program’s eligibility. Additionally, the legislation incentivizes childcare providers to increase availability by increasing reimbursement rates. Some childcare providers across the state are not accepting School Readiness program students because of low reimbursement rates. SB 916, by Senator Alexis Calatayud, and HB 929, by Representative Dana Trabulsy, have moved through the committee process with unanimous approval. In the last committee hearing, Representative Trabulsy mentioned the Untapped Potential in FL report as a catalyst for her interest and sponsorship of the bill. Both the House and Senate bill have an additional committee stop before heading to a full floor vote.
Senator Erin Grall and Representative Fiona McFarland have also introduced measures to improve access to childcare. SB 820 and HB 635 offer incentives for employers to assist in the childcare issues their employees struggle with through tax credits. The legislation also addresses burdensome regulations placed on childcare providers that have little to do with quality or safety in their facilities. Both proposals have been approved unanimously in their first committee hearings and have two more committee stops before heading to a full floor vote.
Increasing available and affordable childcare options for Florida’s working families are one of the many strategies to meet the Florida 2030 Blueprint goals focused on creating a path to prosperity for all of Florida’s zip codes. If you are interested in discussing these bills or getting involved in our advocacy efforts, please reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.