ND’s Working Parents Child Care Relief Program Can Help with Workforce Needs
Solving North Dakota’s childcare needs is key to healthy, vibrant communities to unlocking the state’s workforce capacity, and ensuring the state is open for business.
North Dakota has an estimated 35,000 job openings and the nation’s lowest unemployment rate at 2.1%. North Dakota is also getting younger – attracting younger people who are having families.
State lawmakers, Gov. Doug Burgum’s administration, and business and community leaders have discussed the child care and workforce connection, along with strategies to improve access, affordability and quality.
During the 2021 special legislative session and 2023 session, state lawmakers approved funding in North Dakota Health and Human Services (HHS) budget to support the development of a public-private solution to childcare needs.
“With this investment and support, input from multiple stakeholders, we worked to create a strategy employers could use to make a difference for employees – especially those families with infants and toddlers who shoulder the highest child care cost burden,” said HHS Commissioner Chris Jones.
That led to the creation of North Dakota’s new Working Parents Child Care Relief pilot program. It involves employers, the state of North Dakota and parents, pooling resources to maximize employer-sponsored childcare benefits and to offer financial relief for qualifying families.
“There are many critical jobs in our organization that are not all professional level positions, and it is important to have affordable child care options for frontline employees.”– Sarah Radomski
Here’s How It Works
- Participating employers opt-in and offer childcare benefits to employees at the $150 or $300 per child, per month level.
- Eligible working parents apply.
- Employers verify payment of child care benefits, and
- HHS pays a matching benefit directly to qualifying, participating employees.
To qualify, working parents must work for a participating employer and have a household income at or below 100% of the state median income for a household their size. Their young children (birth 36 months) need to attend a North Dakota licensed childcare program, and parents need to apply.
Urban and rural employers, both large and small, are opting in to participate, including most recently Fargo Public Schools and the State of North Dakota.
When Heart of America Medical Center in Rugby, N.D., opted in to participate, Human Resource Manager Sara Radomski said, “We are a family-focused organization in a rural community. We have made many great strides in improving the benefit options for employees. There are many critical jobs in our organization that are not all professional level positions, and it is important to have affordable child care options for front-line employees.”
Scott Staudinger, Vice President of Government Affairs and Human Resources at Cloverdale Foods Company in Mandan, N.D., estimated that up to 15% of their workforce may qualify and apply to participate.
“Cloverdale strongly feels that by providing this benefit, it will assist us in attracting and retaining top talent.”– Scott Staudinger
“Cloverdale strongly feels that by providing this benefit, it will assist us in attracting and retaining top talent,” he said. “This multi-faceted, cost-sharing program will alleviate some of the economic pressure employees face in providing quality child care for their children.”
Staudinger said signing up was easy. “Cloverdale signed up to participate on April 13, and we were approved on April 14. We are currently creating a policy and crafting employee communications, and we look forward to rolling it out this year,” he said.
During the three-year Working Parents Child Care Relief pilot program, North Dakota hopes to assist up to 1,000 families and to learn more about what works and how best to move forward with additional policy solutions.
Greater North Dakota Chamber Chief Executive Officer and President Arik Spencer supports piloting this and other solutions to workforce needs. “This program will provide helpful data, as we work towards a retention strategy that helps combat the affordability component that is pushing some families out of the workforce.”
“When more options are available to families, there are more winners: families, businesses and North Dakota,” he said.
Be Legendary | Health & Human Services
Learn more at www.hhs.nd.gov/wpccr