Zika, Helt take on child care (copy)

State Reps. Jack Zika, R-Redmond, and Cheri Helt, R-Bend, are asking Oregon lawmakers to approve a measure that should make a dent in the state’s damaging lack of child care. House Bill 4096 may undergo tweaking, to be sure, but the pair’s approach to the problem is both thoughtful and likely to be successful.

Now it’s up to the full Legislature to make the measure law.

Oregon’s child care problems may change from county to county, but they’re statewide and they make life tough for both employees and the companies they work for. Consider: According to the Economic Policy Institute, an Oregonian with an infant will spend, on average, $13,616 a year on care , well above the $9,165 they’d pay in tuition at the University of Oregon or Oregon State, and more than the average cost of rent in the state.

Worse, even at those prices there’s not enough to go around. In fact, according to an Oregon State University study released in 2019, all 36 counties in Oregon are child care deserts, with three or more children in need of care for each slot available.

HB 4096 seeks to change those numbers in several ways. It proposes grants to a child-care provider with a contract to provide child care for large employers. It would make several tax credits available, to landlords leasing to child care facilities, to care providers whose staff members got 18 hours of training per year, and so on.

And, it would make child care facilities an outright use on land zoned for residential or commercial use.

More controversial is a proposal to allow child care facilities as a conditional use on land zoned for exclusive farm use. There’s opposition to the idea and it could be dropped with minimal harm to the rest of the bill.

Child care is expensive to provide and, for landlords, a business with built-in liabilities. Pay is low, and turnover is high. HB 4096 seeks to address those problems in a concrete way. It should be approved.

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