Corridor economic groups push solutions to immigration, child care, housing in 2023


0
Doug Neumann, executive director for the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, addresses lawmakers and business leaders gathered Thursday at Cedar Ridge Winery & Distillery in Swisher. The Alliance and the Iowa City Area Business Partnership unveiled their state and federal legislative policy priorities for 2023 at the event. (Tom Barton/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Iowa employers and industry are pursuing policies in 2023 that, they said this week, will open doors and help more people enter the labor pool.

That means pushing policies that offer solutions to immigration, child care, affordable housing, community place-making and talent development, leaders of the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance and Iowa City Area Business Partnership said Thursday at their legislative priorities launch event at Cedar Ridge Winery & Distillery in Swisher.

The event was attended by business leaders and state lawmakers from both parties who represent areas of the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City Corridor.

Doug Neumann, executive director for the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, said Iowa employers and industry are looking for policies that remove barriers to work.

In the Iowa Legislature, the groups will seek funding increases for affordable housing stock; the expansion of “earn and learn” and apprenticeship programs and a low-cost option for workforce training; and increased wages and benefits to grow Iowa’s child care workforce and expanded child care assistance to support working families.

At the federal level, the economic entities’ priorities include immigration changes, including creating a pathway to citizenship for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, recipients and those with Temporary Protected Status.

Other federal priorities include investing in research in automation, smart technologies, semiconductors and cybersecurity to modernize the nation’s digital infrastructure; and shoring up the nation’s supply chain.

“Unfortunately, when you hear the word ‘immigration,’ sometimes (it) immediately becomes a controversial issue, and it doesn’t have to be and it’s a shame that it is,” Neumann said.

“Business leaders have to continue to voice their support for sensible reforms that address the workforce problem, and leave some of the other stuff that is more partisan and more controversial out of the discussion of what should be a very sensible thing that should be able to generate a lot of agreement,” he said.

“We need a bipartisan approach to our priorities and to the solutions,” said Kim Casko, CEO and president of the Iowa City Area Business Partnership.

State Rep. Molly Donahue, D-Cedar Rapids, raises her hand to be recognized at the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance and the Iowa City Area Business Partnership’s 2023 legislative priorities launch event Thursday at Cedar Ridge Winery & Distillery in Swisher. The event was attended by business leaders and state lawmakers from both parties who represent areas of the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City Corridor. (Tom Barton/The Gazette)

‘Next step’ in child care

On child care, Neumann said the groups were grateful to see incentives to help businesses jump-start new child care opportunities, but are “looking for the next step in child care” to address access, affordability, cost and quality issues, including addressing low state child care reimbursement rates and lackluster wages.

According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, child care workers in Iowa earned an average annual income of $22,320 and an hourly wage of $10.73 in 2021, making it the third-lowest-paid profession statewide after locker room attendants and lifeguards. Nationwide, child care workers on average earned $27,680 annually and $13.31 hourly.

State Rep. Tracy Ehlert, D-Cedar Rapids, who works in early childhood education, was at the legislative launch event and said she’s supportive of the groups’ priorities .

The state, she said, needs to follow up and extend pandemic-related worker retention bonuses for Iowa teachers and child care workers.

“We need to continue that initiative statewide. We also need to continue to address the child care assistance rates,” she said. “We are not meeting what they should be at the federal level, and we’re not addressing the workforce shortage.

“We keep pumping millions of dollars into these grants to create new child care centers, but we aren’t fully staffing the ones that already exist. … So taking care of the workforce and addressing quality that seems to be lacking.”

Rep. Tracy Ehlert, D-Cedar Rapids

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds has approved more than $500 million in state and federal funding to increase access to child care across the state since the start of the pandemic.

Newly elected state Sens. Charlie McClintock, R-Alburnett, and Molly Donahue, D-Cedar Rapids, said lawmakers are focused on improving housing, child care and education to help fill jobs in Iowa.

“Two words on child care: Availability and affordability, and that’s what we’re going to have to concentrate on in the upcoming session,” McClintock said. “And it’s more complex than any one answer.”

McClintock, who has served in Iowa House since 2020, beat Lisbon Democrat Jessica Wiskus and Garrison independent Bruce Gardner for the Senate District 42 seat in the Nov. 8 election. The district covers much of rural Linn and Benton counties.

Donahue, a second-term state representative, beat Republican Kurt Bendixen in Iowa Senate District 37, which includes eastern Cedar Rapids and Marion.

“I think a bipartisan thing would be to welcome workers from all populations,” Donahue said. “We have a worker shortage. We need to be a welcoming state that people will come here (and) want to work here, which means we need to do better for our workers.”

Comments: (319) 398-8499; [email protected]

Priorities

A full list of policy priorities for the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance and Iowa City Area Business Partnership can be viewed at https://bit.ly/3uDuJrC

(function(d, s, id) {
var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];
if (d.getElementById(id)) return;
js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;
js.src=”https://connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v3.2″;
fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);
}(document, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’));


Like it? Share with your friends!

0

What's Your Reaction?

hate hate
0
hate
confused confused
0
confused
fail fail
0
fail
fun fun
0
fun
geeky geeky
0
geeky
love love
0
love
lol lol
0
lol
omg omg
0
omg
win win
0
win
adminadmin

0 Comments

Leave a Reply