By: Madeline Shannon, Columbia Missourian

JEFFERSON CITY — Efforts continued Thursday to move legislation forward that would allow employers, child care providers and families a tax credit in a push to expand access to child care in Missouri.

On Thursday, the Senate Government Accountability Committee passed House Bill 1488, which would establish tax credits to employers who make contributions to their employees’ child care expenses, as well as grant a tax credit to families who pay for child care and child care providers.

The bill would allow individuals to claim a tax credit equal to 75% of their contribution as a child care provider each tax year, not to exceed $200,000 a year. The minimum contribution individuals can claim a tax credit for is $100.

Companies could also claim 30% of child care contributions when employers contribute to child care expenses for their employees’ children. Another provision of the bill would see a tax credit for child care providers up to the amount of the eligible employer withholding tax and 30% of the child care provider’s capital expenditures, which can include things like construction and renovation of a child care facility.

Those provisions are capped at $200,000 per year, with a minimum qualifying contribution of $100.

The measure is meant to curb the growth of “child care deserts.” Those are defined as areas where the poverty rate is at least 20% or the median family income is less than 80% of the statewide average, and where at least 500 people, or 33% of the population, are located more than half a mile away from a child care provider in an urban area or more than 10 miles away in rural areas.

“We heard mainly from a lot of chambers of commerce, a lot of industry leaders associated with industries in Missouri who really see the lack of child care options in the state of Missouri,” said Will Wheeler, chief of staff to Sen. Karla Eslinger, R-Wasola, chair of the Senate Governmental Accountability Committee.

“It has great bipartisan support,” he said. “This is a priority for the governor, this is a priority to the Senate Committee Chairwoman, Senator Eslinger, and we hope to get it done by the end of session.”

Testimony in support of the bill in the Thursday hearing was short, with no one testifying in opposition, underscoring its bipartisan nature. Others who testified after the initial introduction of the bill in January voiced overwhelming support for the legislation.

“A large hindrance to any workforce effort is child care,” said Allen Dillingham, director of government relations for The Builders, a chapter of the Associated General Contractors, in testimony in January. “Child care issues are becoming more and more important for every industry in the state. The construction industry is not immune to these workforce challenges.”
Parents, too, are feeling the pinch as the cost of child care goes up — making it unaffordable for many families.

“In order for my child to receive the kind of care I provided to other children, it would have taken my whole monthly paycheck,” said Alyssa Anne Morrow, who submitted testimony in support of the bill in January. “I stayed home for many reasons, but not being able to afford care was the biggest. The workforce of all industries in Missouri relies upon the availability of the child care workforce.”

The bill has received support from both Democrats and Republicans who have voiced approval for state support of child care providers.

According to previous Missourian reporting, there are about 500 fewer child care providers in Missouri than there were five years ago. Parson’s legislative director, Jamie Birch, said in a 2023 interview that 77% of Missouri’s counties were considered a child care desert, and child care providers still in business in the state can only serve 39% of children younger than 6.

Efforts to pass legislation to curtail the child care shortage in Missouri have stalled in previous years, with the House failing to pass new laws to expand child care access last year.

Original article with photos here