March 04, 2024

What Happened With Child Care During the 2024 Legislative Session?

As we entered the 2024 session, supporting families with young children remained a top policy priority of Voices for Utah Children. At the forefront of our advocacy efforts is the urgent need to address the critical child care needs of these families.

We worked closely with several legislators to propose much-needed public investment in the child care sector. We also supported multiple early care and education bills that were championed by other legislators and organizations. Here's what passed (and what didn't):

Child Care Priorities

HB 461: Child Care Grant Amendments, Rep. Ashlee Matthews & Sen. Luz Escamilla
This bill makes child care workers eligible for child care subsidies regardless of income, mirroring Kentucky's successful initiative. This helps child care owners cover the costs of providing a child care benefit and helps staff keep more of their paycheck. However, its enactment is contigent on federal funding approval, delaying implementation until that is secured. Initially, this bill also created the Child Care Workers Wage Supplement Grant Program, to help child care providers maintain a $15/hour wage for their staff, once stabilization grants end. Unfortunately, this provision was removed through an amendment. Eliminating the wage program and tying subsidy eligibility to federal funding made the bill cost-free for the state. Despite our disappointment with the continued lack of public investment in the child care sector, we remain optimistic about its potential positive impact, estimated to benefit 2,200 parents employed in child care.
Position: SUPPORT

HB 541: Child Care Grants Amendments, Rep. Andrew Stoddard
This bill would extend Utah’s current child care stabilization grant program, funded at 50% of the original grant size, for another two years as an emergency stopgap measure. The proposal aimed to address Utah's impending loss of over $400M in expiring federal funds allocated for the child care sector. With the $240M cost, we did not anticipate its passage. Still, we hoped for a hearing where parents and providers could share their thoughts on the program and how they have been impacted by the dwindling funding. Despite the bill not advancing, we were pleased the federal funding cliff received significant media attention during the session. 
Position: SUPPORT

HB 153: Child Care Revisions, Rep. Susan Pulsipher & Sen. Dan McCay
Originally, this bill sought to expand Utah’s new and very limited
Child Tax Credit to allow families to claim a tax benefit for any child aged one to five. Unfortunately, the bill took an unexpected turn when a substitute version was adopted, introducing a dangerous provision raising the cap on the number of children unlicensed providers can care for from six to eight. In response to strong objections from the child care community over safety issues, new regulations were introduced for unlicensed providers, marking the first time such measures have been implemented. These include mandatory background checks and limits on caring for more than two children under 3 years old. We anxiously await information on how the Department of Health and Human Services will enforce these provisions. Additionally, an amendment passed on the House floor that scaled back the child tax credit expansion to only cover 4-year-olds, effectively halving its impact. This modified expansion will extend the credit to a marginal 0.4% more families, benefiting 1.1% more children, with an average annual tax savings of $456 per eligible family. While the child tax credit was initially a top priority of Voices for Utah Children, the dangerous child care licensing provisions led us to change our position and advocate against the bill. For more information on this complex bill, check out our HB 153 FAQs Blog.
Position: OPPOSE

Other Child Care Legislation & Funding Requests

SB 220: School Readiness Grant Program Modernization, Sen. Ann Millner & Rep. Katy Hall
This bill will streamline and improve the state’s current High Quality School Readiness (HQSR) program, Utah's preschool program, by cleaning up the governing code. Promise Partnership Utah, our partner organization, led out on this bill. 
Position: SUPPORT
Outcome: PASSED 

School Readiness Grant Program Funding, Rep. Katy Hall
This funding request sought $6M in ongoing funds for the School Readiness Program, as demand for the program is higher than funds allow. Promise Partnership Utah, our partner organization, led out on this funding request.
Position: SUPPORT

SB 176: Child Care Services Amendments, Sen. Luz Escamilla & Rep. Robert Spendlove
This bill would have created a Salt Lake County pilot project to retrofit empty state-owned buildings for child care facilities. With the goal of creating a public-private partnership solution for child care, local employers would have worked with child care providers to offer care to their employees in the facilities. Under the proposal, 60% of the child care slots would be designated for the business's employees, while the remaining 40% would be reserved for children from low-income families, state employees, and military families. This bill was supported by the Governor's Office of Economic Opportunity. The bill passed unanimously through the Senate, but unexpectedly failed in the House on the final days of the session.
Position: SUPPORT
Outcome: FAILED

HB 96: Child Care Program Sales Tax Exemption, Rep. Christine Watkins
This bill would allow for a sales and use tax exemption for construction materials used to construct or expand a child care program.
Position: SUPPORT


While we anticipated a challenging session for child care advocacy, there are still significant achievements to celebrate!

We hosted four Child Care Champion Lobby Days and a Child Care Advocacy Day hosting nearly 100 parents, providers, and kiddos to the Capitol Rotunda. With the help of our partners, we facilitated over 40 constituent meetings with legislators, and sent over 2,000 emails to lawmakers advocating for child care support! With our partners at Neighborhood House, we released an open letter with 140 businesses, philanthropists, and community members calling on the legislature to address the child care crisis. Furthermore, our advocacy efforts garnered more media coverage than ever before, bringing attention to child care issues across the state. 

Our efforts to educate lawmakers on the importance of child care licensing, led to more nuanced discussions about child care than ever before. Thanks to the invaluable contributions of parents and child care providers who testified or contacted legislators, lawmakers undoubtedly know more about child care than they did 45 days ago.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to child care advocacy efforts during the 2024 Legislative Session! Also a special shout out to our partners, Utah Care for Kids, Promise Partnership Utah, United Way of Salt Lake, Utah Private Child Care Association, Utah Professional Family Child Care Association, YWCA Utah, Utah Afterschool Network, UAEYC, Early Childhood Alliance, Neighborhood House, Bolder Way Forward Child Care Spoke, Utah Community Builders and The Salt Lake Chamber, Powerful Moms Who Care, Community Change, MomsRising, and the countless parents and providers who made time in their busy schedules to advocate for child care.