The Missouri Legislature is not wasting time considering a tax credit package that is designed to boost access to childcare services. Why? According to Rep. Brenda Shields, R-Joseph, Missouri is in the midst of a childcare crisis.

“Twenty years ago, it was really hard to engage our business community in this conversation because they still had workers. They weren’t seeing the issues. Today, they see the issues of what’s happened because we didn’t address the problem. And today it’s a crisis,” Shields told Missourinet. “There is only one slot available for every three children under the age of five in this state. You’re not letting families have a choice on whether they want to work or not.”

The state House Workforce and Infrastructure Development Committee is holding a public hearing today on her bill. The plan would provide tax credits to childcare providers, donors to daycare centers, and businesses who help to cover the childcare costs of their employees.

“Ninety-four percent of the counties in our state are childcare deserts,” she said. “We need to build capacity and the state can’t do it all by itself. And businesses say that they can’t hire individuals because they can’t find care. Our goal is we have to increase slots. We lost over 1,000 providers during the pandemic and only 300 of them came back.”

The bill would allow childcare providers to do things like boost worker pay, expand their location and pay for other needs.

The tax credits would be given on a first come, first serve basis and the amounts could vary. Shields said the price tag of the plan could be as much as $70 million and could increase by 15% if the tax credits are going to childcare deserts.

Can Missouri afford these tax credits?

“Missouri lost out on $1.35 billion of economic growth a year ago,” she said. “And if all those people had been working, we would have brought in $280 million in tax revenue. What we will be able to bring in, based upon growth, will more than pay for the price tag of this tax credit.”

Shields considers the package an economic development tool for Missouri.

“I truly believe that in the state of Missouri, we will never have to have another incentive package to bring a business to our state,” said Shields. “If we can tell any businesses looking for a location, ‘We have your child care issues taken care of,’ they will locate in the state of Missouri before they will locate in any other state and we will have businesses flocking at the doors to come here.”

The bill would expire in six years and lawmakers could then analyze whether the state has reaped the benefits of the package.

As Missouri Senate Republican squabbling is in high gear this major election year, many priorities, including Shields’, are on the line.

“I feel really compelled that we have to do this. I feel that we need to do this for the families. We cannot let down the families in our state by letting another year go by in which we haven’t address something that we know is a crisis. This is one of the solutions. I think it’s a solution that we need to concentrate on this year and reap the benefits for years to come,” she said. “This is just not for today’s workforce. It’s about the workforce 20 years from now because the care that our 0-5 children receive today will be instrumental on who the people they are 20 years from now.”

Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City, is the bill sponsor in the upper chamber.

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