Press Release: Gov. Evers, DCF Announce Child Care Stabilization and Sustainment Efforts Receive Inaugural La Follette/Gladfelter Award for Innovation in State Government

Office of Governor Tony Evers
Gov. Evers, DCF Announce Child Care Stabilization and Sustainment Efforts Receive Inaugural La Follette/Gladfelter Award for Innovation in State Government
MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers, together with the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF), today announced that the Wisconsin Policy Forum named DCF the inaugural recipient of the La Follette/Gladfelter Award for Innovation in State Government for their efforts in stabilizing and sustaining Wisconsin’s child care industry. DCF, using a systems approach, focused on innovative programs and solutions, including the successful Child Care Counts and Project Growth grant programs and a historic Wisconsin Shares rate increase that supports families, child care providers, and communities. DCF will receive the award at the Salute to Local Government awards, which is being held Nov. 15, 2023, at the Italian Community Center in Milwaukee. 

“This recognition underscores just how meaningful and impactful our efforts to support and stabilize the child care industry have been for providers, families, and employers across our state,” said Gov. Evers. “Our efforts to support our state’s child care industry—including Child Care Counts—have been crucial in addressing our state’s workforce challenges and preventing this critical industry’s collapse. The Legislature must get serious about investing in making child care more affordable and accessible statewide so this industry can stay afloat and keep supporting the working families, employers, and communities who desperately need these services to continue.”

The success of these programs is largely in part due to the dozens of staff who supported getting these programs off the ground and across the finish line. Thanks to their dedication, innovative ideas, and ability to connect the dots, we have been able to maintain our pre-pandemic child care landscape, which is not the case for many states, said DCF Secretary Emilie Amundson. I am extremely proud of all that we have accomplished and look forward to continuing to work with partners across the public and private sectors to ensure that every family has access to quality, affordable care that meets their needs.” 

Since 2020, Gov. Evers and DCF Secretary Amundson have invested over $824 million in efforts that support increasing access to quality, affordable child care. The largest portion of this investment has gone to the Child Care Counts Program, which has helped more than 4,440 child care providers keep their doors open, ensuring the employment of 22,000 child care professionals and allowing providers to continue care for more than 113,000 kids. In his 2023-25 biennial budget proposal, Gov. Evers proposed making the Child Care Counts Program permanent with a more than $340 million investment. 

Unfortunately, despite the state’s historic surplus, Republicans in the Legislature decided against putting any funding toward Child Care Counts, meaning the program is set to end in January 2024. According to a report from The Century Foundation, without additional continued investments, 2,110 child care programs are projected to close, resulting in over 87,000 children without child care in Wisconsin and the loss of over 4,880 child care jobs. Additionally, the lack of access to child care could potentially cause about half a billion dollars in economic impacts across the state. Through action he took on the biennial budget, Gov. Evers ensured ample state resources are readily available to help stabilize the state’s child care industry and address the state’s longstanding workforce challenges. 

Gov. Evers announced in August he would be calling a special session of the Legislature to occur on Sept. 20, 2023, to address the state’s longstanding workforce challenges by investing in affordable, accessible child care statewide and preventing the child care industry’s looming collapse, expanding paid family leave to ensure most workers have 12 weeks of paid leave, educating and training the state’s future workforce at the University of Wisconsin (UW) and Wisconsin Technical College Systems, and supporting high-need workforce sectors statewide, like the healthcare and education workforces. More information about the governor’s special session plan is available here.

Republican lawmakers, who have not yet taken action on the governor’s comprehensive workforce plan, gaveled into the governor’s special session on September 20 but have not ‘gaveled out’ of the special session, leaving it open for future consideration and action. The governor’s comprehensive workforce bill, Special Session Senate Bill 1, was referred to the Committee on Economic Development and Technical Colleges on September 21. Sen. Dan Feyen (R-Fond du Lac), who chairs the committee, pledged to treat the special session legislation “the same as every other bill referred to this committee” and committed to holding a public hearing on the bill. A public hearing on the bill is set to occur today, Oct. 11, 2023.

In recent weeks, a new survey completed by the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association (WECA) highlighted the future of the child care field sans the Child Care Counts program. Of the child care providers surveyed, 87 percent are considering raising parent fees, and nearly one-third are considering closing their doors, which would result in a loss of care for at least 19,790 families with young children. At least 13,178 children are already on waiting lists at surveyed programs, according to WECA data. 

The [Child Care Counts] have been vital to help us keep our prices steady without having to raise them on our already struggling families. These families need our services and are trying to navigate cost of living, house payments, rent, food, health care, etc. They also need to work to provide insurance for their families that, if they need to pay on their own, it’s not affordable. Without the childcare counts, we will be forced to raise prices and therefore become unaffordable to many families we serve, said a Green County child care provider. 
An online version of this release is available here.