EPIC and its members began this legislative session with a mission to support our economic recovery and workforce by prioritizing families and children. The early child care and education industry has suffered greatly since the start of the pandemic, with enrollment fluctuations and other financial stressors leading to permanent closures of several hundred child care businesses and significant losses of desperately needed child care slots. At the same time, labor reports and studies revealed the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on working mothers and people of color, and access to affordable and quality child care became one more hurdle for workers to overcome while our economy lost decades of progress in workforce participation. With these significant challenges and opportunities in mind, EPIC brought the business community’s unique perspective to the table and teamed up with early childhood advocates, legislators, state staff, and lobbyists to develop and successfully pass the following bills:
- HB 21-1222 (Rep. A. Valdez | Rep. K. Van Winkle | Sen J. Smallwood | Sen F. Winter) Regulation of Family Child Care Homes: Aligns local governing authority regulations to reduce barriers to entry and expand opportunities to access child care in family child care homes. The bill requires that family child care homes be classified as residences for purposes of licensure and local regulations, including zoning, land use development, fire and life safety, and building codes. Passed with unanimous votes in both chambers!
- HB21-1274 (Rep. B. Titone | Rep. R. Zenzinger | Sen. D. Hisey) Unused State-owned Real Property Beneficial Use: Directs the Department of Personnel to inventory unused State-owned property and use such property to promote affordable housing, child care, public schools, residential mental and behavioral health care, and renewable energy development.
- SB21-236 (Sen. T. Story | Sen J. Sonnenberg | Rep. K. Tipper | Rep. T. Van Beber) Increase Capacity Early Childhood Care & Education: Creates 4 new grant programs to increase capacity for early childhood care and education, improve recruitment and retention rates for early childhood educators (educators), and improve salaries for educators. The bill includes an $8.8 million employer-based child care facilities grant program, which EPIC will be sharing more information on within the next several months. Passed with unanimous votes in the Senate and strong bipartisan support in the House!
- HB21-1304 (Rep. E. Sirota | Rep. A. Garnett | Sen. S. Fenberg | Sen. J. Buckner) Early Childhood System: Creates a new Department of Early Childhood in Colorado in order to unify and streamline early childhood programs, services, and requirements for the benefit of families and child care business owners/operators. Also sets a transition process in motion that will begin the implementation of universal preschool and ensures parents have access to a “mixed delivery” system of school-based and community-based preschool programs that meet their needs. Business community representatives are invited to serve on the transition advisory team and can indicate their interest by completing this form. Passed with unanimous votes in the Senate and bipartisan support in the House!
Many thanks to the Colorado Legislators and our members and supporters for believing in the importance of early childhood investments and policy actions for the benefit of our current and future generations. We are also grateful to EPIC member Adeeb Khan (Delta Dental of Colorado) for his testimony in support of HB21-1304 on behalf of EPIC, and to EPIC Policy Committee members, Sue Renner, David Perez, David Hammond, Marc Pasquariello-Williams, Mike Kopp, and Bill Jaeger for their guidance and leadership in EPIC’s policy work.
Special thanks also goes to our major philanthropic supporters who help make our ongoing work possible throughout the year: David & Laura Merage Foundation, Buell Foundation, Mile High United Way, and Women’s Foundation of Colorado.
The passage of these bills is monumental progress towards sustainability for early child care and education in our state, and the future for Colorado children is a bright one. We are excited about the newly created grant opportunities and the positive additions they will bring for child care providers, families, and children across Colorado.
Stay tuned for our July blog as we discuss next steps for Colorado’s new employer-based child care facilities grant program. This program is a great opportunity for our state to engage employers as partners in making investments into child care facilities that will address the needs of their employees and the local community at the same time.