PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill allocating $100 million in an effort to stabilize the state’s child care workforce and help parents in search of reliable child care options. 

HB 4005 increases the amount of money providers who accept Employment Related Day Care subsidies receive per child. It intends to provide more equitable compensation rates and to increase the purchasing power for parents who utilize ERDC. 

Brown signed the bill at Bloom Children’s Center in Bend on Tuesday. 

“We know how critical child care continues to be in Oregon. The pandemic has made clear that without child care, no other work can happen,” Brown said. “We have seen the devastating impact on employment when parents can’t find child care, particularly for mothers and people of color.” 

Brown said Oregon lawmakers have heard consistently from employers, child care providers, and working families that access to child care is the biggest barrier preventing people from returning to work. 

She said the money from the bill will expand child care access, provide professional learning opportunities for child care professionals, and provide higher compensation to help retain existing providers. 

The bill also helps recruit child care providers and directs grants to expand existing child care facilities. 

The legislation comes in response to the state’s child care provider shortage

Even before the pandemic, all 36 counties in the state were considered child care “deserts” for children ages 2 and under, according to a report from Oregon State University. That means there are at least three children under the age of 2 for every available child care slot in the county. Twenty-five other counties qualified as child care deserts for children ages 3-5. 

Early Learning Division Director Alyssa Chatterjee told KOIN 6 News that even before the pandemic, child care was not an easy field to work in and had a turnover rate among providers of about 30%.  

During the pandemic, things like COVID-19 restrictions, low wages, fear of contracting the virus, and the inability to keep up with costs caused child care providers to decrease. 

Before the pandemic, Oregon had a child care capacity of 128,819. Since then, the capacity has decreased and can only serve 102,394 children, a loss of about 20%. 

“As we begin to emerge from the pandemic, we must continue to build a system where every family can find care so our children have joyous, reliable, and meaningful early childhood experiences,” Rep. Karin Power, D-Milwaukie, said when the bill passed the House in late February. 

Power is the chief sponsor of the bill and chair of the House Committee on Early Childhood. 

Oregon State University announced Wednesday it received a $14.4 million grant from Oregon’s Early Learning Division to establish a statewide center focused on strengthening the early childhood education workforce in Oregon. 

In a news release, OSU said, “The new center will provide support and training from an anti-bias, culturally responsive lens to better equip educators who care for children from marginalized populations and for children who have experienced trauma.” 

This new center will work closely with similar centers at Portland State University, Western Oregon University and the Early Learning Division. 

The center will focus on providing mentorship and resources for coaches around the state to share with early childhood educators within their communities. It will also create digital literacy trainings to provide online resources for educators in their preferred language.