ST. GEORGE — One of the most challenging things for working parents is often how to pay for child care.
If passed into law, House Bills 89 and 187 would provide tax and other incentives to employers that would pay for their working parents’ child care. The bills are sponsored by Rep. Suzanne Harrison, D-Sandy.
HB 89 would allow the Governor’s Office of Economic Development to consider awarding companies Economic Development Tax Increment Financing.
This incentive is a refundable tax credit rebate for up to 30% of new state revenues from sales, corporate and withholding taxes paid over the life of the award, typically five to 10 years.
It is available to companies seeking to relocate or expand operations in Utah that bring or add at least 50 jobs to the Beehive State.
This incentive could benefit working families by providing company-offered onsite or near-site child care, subsidies, flexible work schedules, paid family leave and a matched company spending account.
This bill, Harrison said, would encourage more private sector companies to offer quality care to the children of their employees.
HB 187 would provide companies a state income tax credit to offset the cost of their employees’ child care.
The credit would be equal to 50% of qualified expenses and would be capped at $50,000 per business. Statewide, $500,000 would be offered in credits annually. The program has a five-year sunset clause but could be renewed during a future legislative session.
“Utah is currently last in the nation in terms of accessibility to childcare,” Harrison said. “For every one spot in a licensed child care facility, there are four children needing to fill that spot.”
To add insult to injury, Harrison added, there are several counties in Utah that do not have any licensed child care providers.
“We are at a point of market failure,” she said. “It is a difficult situation because it’s getting very expensive. That is especially hitting middle-income families hard. Right now, 63% of Utah families can’t afford the cost of child care.”
Harrison said the cost of care for an infant can cost as much as one year of college tuition.
“This is a real problem for many communities,” Harrison said. “We have too many folks who can’t afford to take care of this need.”
Joan Manning, a single mother of four, said some weeks paying for child care comes down to her family sacrificing new clothes or shoes, a special birthday present, a full tank of gas, and in certain instances, healthy food.
“It’s kind of sad when my littlest one just wants some strawberries and I really don’t have enough to spend on fruit,” Manning said. “I don’t mind for me, but it really tugs at my heartstrings when it’s my children.”
These bills, Harrison said, ask the business community to step up to the plate and make a difference in the lives of their employees.
Workforce experts say there is empirical data that suggests when companies offer subsidies to pay for child care or provide onsite care there is greater retention in the workforce as well as being an important benefit when recruiting new employees.
“I think businesses stepping in and helping will also increase their bottom line,” Harrison said. “This is really a workforce development issue. People will want to work for companies that offer extra benefits like child care.”
As a moderate Democrat, Harrison said an issue like this should not become a partisan fight.
“I think we should be scrutinizing all incentives, making sure they are serving our communities and helping to address a problem,” she said. “Let’s make good policy from good ideas and work together to find solutions.”
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