New bipartisan bill seeks to tackle national child care shortage with help from the Pentagon

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WASHINGTON — As the country faces a shrinking supply of child care workers and higher costs of care, a bipartisan duo of senators is taking steps to address the shortage, specifically targeted at helping service members who face unique challenges trying to access reliable child care.

Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, will introduce the Expanding Child Care for Military Families Act on Thursday, proposing a first-of-its-kind Defense Department-led pilot program to help child care providers near military installations train, recruit and retain staff members. The goal would be to boost the availability of care, for both military members and local civilians, by increasing workforce development opportunities for workers in the industry, using the Defense Department’s already existing resources.

“We have a workforce shortage, and to the extent that people look at the challenges of family life in the military — child care is one of those challenges, and that’s a deterrent for people to join the military. Anything we can do to address that is really important,” Shaheen said in an interview Wednesday.

The legislation would enable the Defense Department to enter into partnerships with both private and public child care centers on or near military installations and require it to participate in recruitment and retention programs for child care providers at participating centers.