Legislature(2023 - 2024)BARNES 124

02/13/2023 03:15 PM House LABOR & COMMERCE

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Audio Topic
03:17:01 PM Start
03:17:33 PM Presentation(s): Child Care Overview in Alaska
04:16:39 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Presentation: Child Care Overview in Alaska by TELECONFERENCED
Thread, CCPO, Help Me Grow Alaska, and Department
of Health
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
          HOUSE LABOR AND COMMERCE STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                         
                       February 13, 2023                                                                                        
                           3:17 p.m.                                                                                            
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Representative Jesse Sumner, Chair                                                                                              
Representative Justin Ruffridge, Vice Chair                                                                                     
Representative Mike Prax                                                                                                        
Representative Dan Saddler                                                                                                      
Representative Ashley Carrick                                                                                                   
Representative Zack Fields                                                                                                      
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
Representative Stanley Wright                                                                                                   
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
PRESENTATION(S): CHILD CARE OVERVIEW IN ALASKA                                                                                  
     - HEARD                                                                                                                    
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
No previous action to record                                                                                                    
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
DAN BEUTEL, representing self                                                                                                   
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Gave invited testimony during the overview                                                               
on child care in Alaska.                                                                                                        
STEPHANIE BERGLUND, CEO                                                                                                         
thread Alaska                                                                                                                   
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Presented the PowerPoint, titled "Child                                                                  
Care- Then, Now, Next" during the overview of child care in                                                                     
ELIZABETH SCHULTZ, Community Relations Manager                                                                                  
Help Me Grow Alaska                                                                                                             
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Co-presented a PowerPoint on Help Me Grow                                                                
Alaska during the overview on child care in Alaska.                                                                             
MARCY ASH, Community Relations Coordinator                                                                                      
Help Me Grow Alaska                                                                                                             
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:   Co-presented a PowerPoint on  Help Me Grow                                                              
Alaska during the overview on child care in Alaska.                                                                             
DEB ETHERIDGE, Director                                                                                                         
Division of Public Assistance                                                                                                   
Department of Health                                                                                                            
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION  STATEMENT:   Gave  a  PowerPoint,  titled "Child  Care                                                              
Program Overview" during the overview on child care in Alaska.                                                                  
CHRISTINA HULQUIST, Public Assistance Programs Officer                                                                          
Alaska Department of Education and Early Development                                                                            
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Answered questions on  behalf of the Alaska                                                              
Department  of  Education  and   Early  Development  during  the                                                                
presentation overview on child care in Alaska."                                                                                 
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
3:17:01 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR JESSE SUMNER called the  House Labor and Commerce Standing                                                              
Committee  meeting  to  order  at  3:17  p.m.    Representatives                                                                
Carrick,  Fields,  Ruffridge,  Prax, Saddler,  and  Sumner  were                                                                
present at the call to order.                                                                                                   
^PRESENTATION(S): CHILD CARE OVERVIEW IN ALASKA                                                                                 
         PRESENTATION(S): CHILD CARE OVERVIEW IN ALASKA                                                                     
[Contains discussion of HB 46.]                                                                                                 
3:17:33 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SUMNER announced that the  only order of business would be                                                                
an overview on child care in Alaska.                                                                                            
3:18:11 PM                                                                                                                    
DAN  BEUTEL, representing  self, provided  invited  testimony on                                                                
child care in  Alaska.  He shared  that he had to  leave his job                                                                
the previous  year because of  the inability to find  child care                                                                
for his three  children.  He stated that the  cost of child care                                                                
outweighed the benefit of having a second income for his family.                                                                
He expressed the opinion that  child care workers should be paid                                                                
more for the work they do.                                                                                                      
3:22:48 PM                                                                                                                    
STEPHANIE  BERGLUND,  CEO,  thread  Alaska,  gave  a  PowerPoint                                                                
presentation, titled "Child  Care- Then, Now,  Next," [hard copy                                                                
included in the committee packet].                                                                                              
3:23:18 PM                                                                                                                    
The committee took an at-ease from 3:23 p.m. to 3:25 p.m.                                                                       
3:25:35 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. BERGLUND, moving to slide 2,  stated that the goal of thread                                                                
Alaska is  to promote child care and  early childhood education.                                                                
On slide 3, she outlined the services provided by thread Alaska,                                                                
including  child  care  referrals,  training  early  child  care                                                                
educators, and providing child care  advocacy and research.  She                                                                
moved to slide 5 and slide 6  and gave an overview of child care                                                                
access in  the state.   She  said that one  out of  five working                                                                
families are inhibited from fully participating in the workforce                                                                
because of issues finding child care, and 61 percent of Alaskans                                                                
are "in  crisis" when it  comes to  access.  She  explained that                                                                
this statistic uses  the metrics of fifty children  who are five                                                                
years of  age or older  with no providers  or when the  ratio of                                                                
children in need of child  care to child care providers is three                                                                
to one.                                                                                                                         
MS. BERGLUND  moved on to slide  7 and outlined  the issues with                                                                
child care  affordability.  She  stated that the  average family                                                                
spends 17  percent of its  yearly income, and for  families with                                                                
two or more children, the cost is often greater than the cost of                                                                
housing.  She stated that child care in Alaska is more expensive                                                                
than  in-state college  tuition.   Continuing  to  slide 8,  she                                                                
stated  that child  care workers  are  some of  the lowest  paid                                                                
workers in  the state.   She  expressed the  understanding that,                                                                
although child  care providers would  like to pay  higher wages,                                                                
they cannot, as the cost  would be "pushed" to parents, and this                                                                
would  make child  care unaffordable.   She  added  that reduced                                                                
working hours during the COVID-19  pandemic caused child care to                                                                
become even more unaffordable for some families.                                                                                
3:30:46 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. BERGLUND  moved to slide  11 and slide  12 and gave  a brief                                                                
overview of the  issues currently facing the  child care sector.                                                                
In part because  of the COVID-19 pandemic, she said,  a fifth of                                                                
Alaskan  child  care  centers  have permanently  closed  and  90                                                                
percent of  those operating  are doing so  below capacity.   She                                                                
added  that   low  wages  are  contributing   to  burnout  among                                                                
employees, furthering the staffing shortages centers are already                                                                
facing.  She argued that the  lack of sufficient child care is a                                                                
contributing factor  to the  slowing economic growth  across the                                                                
state, as 77 percent of parents across the U.S. reported missing                                                                
work because  of this  issue; 36  percent have  postponed higher                                                                
education or  training; and  7  percent of  families have  had a                                                                
parent leave a job to stay home and care for the children.                                                                      
MS.  BERGLUND continued  to  slide 13  and  said  that over  $50                                                                
million in grants have  been distributed to child care providers                                                                
for the purpose of helping centers  remain open.  She added that                                                                
the federal  aid for  child care centers  is nearing  its sunset                                                                
date; therefore, challenges faced by  providers will continue to                                                                
grow.   She offered  her opinion that  public funding  for child                                                                
care is necessary to reduce outmigration from the state.                                                                        
3:35:20 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. BERGLUND continued to slide 15  and slide 16 and stated that                                                                
only  one-third  of children  are  considered  to be  ready  for                                                                
kindergarten, and  child care is  playing a role  in this.   She                                                                
expressed the  opinion that  there is  "a  lack of  respect" for                                                                
child  care employees,  and  this underestimates  their role  in                                                                
preparing children  to succeed in school.   She added  that only                                                                
one  in  six  members  of  the  state's workforce  are  able  to                                                                
participate because of access to child care.                                                                                    
3:39:35 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE FIELDS  commented that  North Dakota  is pursuing                                                                
wage  increases  for  child   care  workers  to  compensate  for                                                                
increased training.   He  suggested that Alaska  should consider                                                                
this model.                                                                                                                     
3:40:24 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER questioned the  "ideal" situation for the                                                                
child care sector,  and he questioned whether the  state has had                                                                
such a situation in the past.                                                                                                   
MS. BERGLUND  answered that  in her 16  years working  at thread                                                                
Alaska  she has  not met  a  family who  has  found "accessible,                                                                
affordable care that meets their needs."  She stated that access                                                                
to affordable child care has been a challenge for decades across                                                                
the U.S.   In  response to  a follow-up question,  she suggested                                                                
that there are  other places to look to  for inspiration when it                                                                
comes to achieving accessible and affordable child care.                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE  SADDLER  asked  Ms. Berglund  who  she  believes                                                                
should pay for child care.                                                                                                      
MS. BERGLUND  expressed that  thread Alaska  believes it  is the                                                                
responsibility  of   everyone.     Parents  have   the  greatest                                                                
responsibility  for the  cost  currently, but  thread Alaska  is                                                                
looking to businesses and the government to help reduce the cost                                                                
to parents.   In response  to a follow-up  question, she defined                                                                
"all of us" to mean all of the people of Alaska.                                                                                
3:44:01 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  CARRICK   noted  that  the   federal  government                                                                
contributes $84 million towards child  care in Alaska, while the                                                                
state contributes  $36 million.   She  asked whether  there were                                                                
other states where those two figures were closer.                                                                               
MS. BERGLUND  answered that  Alaska contributes  relatively less                                                                
than most other states.                                                                                                         
3:45:21 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE PRAX  questioned the  investment the  state would                                                                
need to make in order to "close the gap."                                                                                       
MS. BERGLUND answered that $30  million would be needed to solve                                                                
the problem in the short term.                                                                                                  
3:46:38 PM                                                                                                                    
ELIZABETH  SCHULTZ, Community  Relations Manager,  Help Me  Grow                                                                
Alaska, co-presented the PowerPoint on Help Me Grow Alaska [hard                                                                
copy included in the committee packet].  She stated that Help Me                                                                
Grow Alaska is the call  center part of the All Alaska Pediatric                                                                
Partnership.  She stated that the organization talks to families                                                                
around the  state about  challenges they face  when it  comes to                                                                
accessing child care.  On  slide 2, she stated that families are                                                                
facing difficulties balancing  the demands of  jobs while caring                                                                
for children.                                                                                                                   
3:49:03 PM                                                                                                                    
MARCY ASH, Community Relations Coordinator, Help Me Grow Alaska,                                                                
co-presented the PowerPoint on  Help Me Grow Alaska.   She moved                                                                
to slide  3 and addressed the  difficulty military families have                                                                
finding child  care.  She  said that many  military families are                                                                
single-parent or  dual-income families,  with the  second parent                                                                
working  outside of  the  home or  also being  a  member of  the                                                                
military.   Both child care  facilities on Joint  Base Elmendorf                                                                
Richardson  have waiting  lists  long enough  to cause  military                                                                
families to look for off-base child care facilities.  She stated                                                                
that  Alaska is  considered by  the military  to be  an overseas                                                                
assignment, and  for  military families  to receive  a permanent                                                                
change  of  station  (PCS),  the  service  providers  for  their                                                                
dependents must  be  screened by  the Exceptional  Family Member                                                                
Program, and this is  to ensure the new station  will be able to                                                                
provide for the needs  of the dependent.  If  a sudden change in                                                                
availability for  care occurs, some  families may be  unable "to                                                                
PCS" to the  state of Alaska, or they may  have to be reassigned                                                                
away from Alaska.  She added that the Valdez Coast Guard base is                                                                
at risk  of losing its "family  friendly" designation because of                                                                
the lack of child care options in the community.                                                                                
MS.  ASH continued  to  slide  4 and  stated  that for  military                                                                
families  with a  child with  asthma,  going to  Fairbanks is  a                                                                
challenge because of the lack  of access to pulmonary treatment.                                                                
If a family must travel to  Anchorage to see a specialist, it is                                                                
not considered to be  available care.  She said  that it is also                                                                
difficult to recruit  doctors in the state  because doctors also                                                                
have issues with finding child care.                                                                                            
3:55:04 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. SCHULTZ moved to slide  6 and suggested that the legislature                                                                
take these  three steps to mitigate  the problem of the  lack of                                                                
child care access in the state: use the data provided by Help Me                                                                
Grow  Alaska  regarding  the  needs of  children  and  families;                                                                
establish a legislative child care policy workgroup; and provide                                                                
additional  funding for  the  Head Start  and  Early Head  Start                                                                
3:58:24 PM                                                                                                                    
DEB   ETHERIDGE,  Director,   Division  of   Public  Assistance,                                                                
Department  of  Health  (DOH),  gave a  PowerPoint  presentation                                                                
titled "Child Care Program Overview"  [hard copy included in the                                                                
committee packet].   On slide 2, she stated that  the Child Care                                                                
Program  Office's mission  is  to  support  families looking  to                                                                
access  child care.    She  continued to  slide  3  and gave  an                                                                
overview of  the Child Care  Development Fund.  She  stated that                                                                
the fund  is authorized through  the Child Care  and Development                                                                
Block  Grant Act  and  administered by  the  Child Care  Program                                                                
Office.   The purpose of  the fund  is to promote  healthy child                                                                
development  and school  success,  support  working parents  and                                                                
parents  who are  continuing  their  education, help  low-income                                                                
families pay  for child care,  and provide support to  the child                                                                
care system.                                                                                                                    
MS. ETHERIDGE continued  to slide 4 and slide  5, presenting the                                                                
structure of the Child Care Program Office.  The office provides                                                                
licensing  for   child   care  providers,   administers  subsidy                                                                
programs,  and works  to  improve the  quality  and capacity  of                                                                
Alaska's child care programs.                                                                                                   
4:01:51 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  ETHERIDGE, in  response to  Representative  Saddler, stated                                                                
that this  is funded by a  block grant provided to  the state by                                                                
the federal government.                                                                                                         
4:02:38 PM                                                                                                                    
CHRISTINA HULQUIST,  Public Assistance Programs  Officer, Alaska                                                                
Department of  Education and  Early Development, added  that the                                                                
amount the fund  received for fiscal year 2023  was $22 million.                                                                
She explained  that the amount  of money granted by  the federal                                                                
government has a match requirement by  the state.  She said that                                                                
70 percent of  the grant must  be used to subsidize  the cost of                                                                
child care for low-income families.                                                                                             
4:03:28 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE FIELDS  commented that the  Childcare Development                                                                
Fund is not something that exists  in Alaska; instead, a plan is                                                                
submitted to the federal government detailing how the state will                                                                
use the federal grants.                                                                                                         
4:03:53 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  ETHERIDGE continued  to slide  6 and  slide 7  and gave  an                                                                
overview of  child care licensing.   She stated that  DOH issues                                                                
licenses  for  three   types  of  child   care  providers:  home                                                                
providers, which is  a single child care provider  who cares for                                                                
up to eight  children in a home; a child  care group home, which                                                                
requires two providers and can care for up to 12 children; and a                                                                
child  care center  which  cares for  13  or  more children  and                                                                
requires a qualified administrator and a  caretaker for every 30                                                                
children  enrolled  in  the  center.   She  said  that  the  two                                                                
exceptions to needing a license for child care while benefitting                                                                
from the Childcare Assistance  Program are relatives and in-home                                                                
providers.  She  gave the example of a  grandparent caring for a                                                                
grandchild and  a provider  who goes  into the  children's home,                                                                
both of which  would still be required to  meet the standards of                                                                
the Childcare Assistance Program to benefit.                                                                                    
MS.  ETHERIDGE moved  to slide  8 and  gave an  overview of  the                                                                
eligibility  for the  subsidies  and benefits  of the  Childcare                                                                
Assistance Program.  She stated that there are 2,832 children in                                                                
Alaska enrolled in  child care services, and  these children are                                                                
spread between 379 licensed  providers and 9 approved providers.                                                                
She  said  that the  grants  cover  the  subsidies for  eligible                                                                
families,  providers   who   accept  subsidized   children,  and                                                                
providers who care for children with special needs.                                                                             
4:07:44 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER expressed confusion that there are only 9                                                                
approved  providers.     He  asked  for   clarification  of  the                                                                
difference between the approved and licensed providers.                                                                         
MS. ETHERIDGE answered  that an approved provider  is an in-home                                                                
provider who  is eligible  for the Childcare  Assistance Program                                                                
but covered by the  exceptions for family and in-home providers.                                                                
These  providers  are  required  to  meet  standards  which  are                                                                
different than licensed providers.                                                                                              
4:09:40 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. ETHERIDGE continued with slide 8  and stated that child care                                                                
providers have multiple  ways to use the grant  for the purposes                                                                
of improving programs.  She said that the Alaska Inclusive Child                                                                
Care Program  provides grants to  child care providers  who care                                                                
for  children with  special needs.   She  moved to  slide 9  and                                                                
stated that DOH has a goal of improving the quality and capacity                                                                
of  child care  programs in  the state.   This  is  done through                                                                
promoting  childhood  development, supporting  parents  who  are                                                                
working or continuing  education, supporting child care employee                                                                
training and professional  development, and increasing education                                                                
to the public on the subject.                                                                                                   
4:13:10 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  ETHERIDGE, in  response to  a question  from Representative                                                                
Prax, stated  that the numbers  of providers does  include those                                                                
not accepting subsidized  children.  In response  to a follow-up                                                                
question, she  said the  number does  not include  providers who                                                                
cared  for four  or less  children,  as those  providers do  not                                                                
require licensure.                                                                                                              
MS. HULQUIST added that the state does not have a way of knowing                                                                
the number of  children being cared for by providers  who do not                                                                
require licensure.                                                                                                              
4:15:03 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE CARRICK asked if the state currently has an early                                                                
childhood strategic plan, and if so, who puts the plan together.                                                                
MS. ETHERIDGE  answered that  there is  a comprehensive  plan in                                                                
place for early childhood care.                                                                                                 
MS. HULQUIST  added that private and  public stakeholders across                                                                
the state  participated in putting the  plan together, including                                                                
state government agencies, parents, and child care providers.                                                                   
4:16:39 PM                                                                                                                    
There being no further  business before the committee, the House                                                                
Committee of  Labor and Commerce  meeting was adjourned  at 4:16                                                                

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
DOH DPA CCPO Overview 02.13.23.pdf HL&C 2/13/2023 3:15:00 PM
Legislative Testimony Feb 13 SB.pptx HL&C 2/13/2023 3:15:00 PM
HB 46 Letter of Support.pdf HL&C 2/13/2023 3:15:00 PM
HB 46
A2P2 HMG-AK ECN Testimony on Child Care Needs.pdf HL&C 2/13/2023 3:15:00 PM
HMG-AK Program Director Testimony.pdf HL&C 2/13/2023 3:15:00 PM
House L&C Hearing FEB 13 - Read-Only.pdf HL&C 2/13/2023 3:15:00 PM
AK Childcare Fact Sheet 3.0.pdf HL&C 2/13/2023 3:15:00 PM
L&C February 13 Klouda.pdf HL&C 2/13/2023 3:15:00 PM
HB 46 Supporting Document - UA Center for Economic Development Nolan Klouda.pdf HL&C 2/13/2023 3:15:00 PM
HB 46