- State Senator Linda Stewart introduced legislation on Monday to establish a childcare voucher program in Florida, aimed at addressing economic difficulties caused by childcare challenges.
- The proposed program would provide assistance to parents of children aged 18 months to 4 years, covering partial or full childcare costs, with eligibility based on an income threshold of 200 percent of the federal poverty guideline.
- This preemptive measure is set to be formally introduced during the upcoming Legislative Session in Florida and follows a report published in September that highlighted an annual deficit of $5.38 billion and various economic impacts resulting from childcare challenges in the state.
A state Senator filed legislation on Monday that would establish a childcare voucher program that, if adopted, would address recently-documented economic difficulties due to childcare challenges.
The preemptive measure, introduced by Sen. Linda Stewart, would form a voucher program, contingent on legislative funding, to assist parents with children aged 18 months to 4 years in covering either partial or the full costs of childcare services. The program would be open to parents who earn an income at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty guideline.
The bill will be formally introduced during the upcoming Legislative Session, scheduled to begin on January 11.
“I hope this session we can all come to an agreement on issues of public health, and the health and safety of our young children in Florida,” said Stewart in a statement following the bill’s filing.
Stewart’s filing comes on the heels of a report published by the Florida Chamber of Commerce last month that registered an annual deficit of $5.38 billion due to childcare challenges.
The report, developed in collaboration with the National Chamber Foundation as part of the national “Untapped Potential in FL” research initiative, reflects an annual tax revenue loss of $911 million due to the childcare crisis. Florida employers additionally bear an annual burden of $3.47 billion due to employee turnover and absenteeism triggered by childcare issues.
The study found that 48 percent of individuals in the state’s workforce had to make significant daily adjustments due to childcare issues over the past year. Moreover, 64 percent of parents with young children missed work in the last three months. An additional 15 percent were forced to quit their jobs within the past six months due to childcare demands.
“Childcare gaps drive parents out of the workforce, reduce tax revenue, and put undue strain on Florida households and businesses—particularly among the most economically vulnerable,” reads the report.
While the Chamber Foundation lauded recent legislative action in the report — including the passage of Senate Bill 7034 in 2022, which raised monthly payments for foster caregivers — it advocated for the implementation of family-friendly policies like flexible working hours and remote work when possible.
“Employers can reduce the number and severity of challenges that parents, especially women and low-income groups, face by implementing family-friendly policies like flexible working hours and remote work when possible,” the report continues. “In doing so, businesses strengthen their human capital and increase the size of the available talent pool when hiring.”