Utah tax credit bill would loosen rules for unlicensed child care

Alex Gonzalez

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(Utah News Connection) Utah child care advocates are relieved child care is finally a topic of more serious policy discussion on the Hill but they are also voicing concerns about safety-related changes being proposed.

House Bill 153 is headed to the governor's desk. It would provide a $2.3 million tax break for some Utah parents but it also would increase the maximum number of children an unlicensed day care center can take, from six to eight, as of May 1.

Anna Thomas with Voices for Utah Children said the bill may contain some 'wins' in terms of tax credits but health and safety are being compromised when child care providers aren't licensed.

PROMO Map - Utah State Map - iStock - klenger

© iStock - klenger

"There do remain significant health and safety concerns," Thomas emphasized. "That is a lot of children to have in one home with one person who may have CPR and first-aid training, who may know that babies are supposed to sleep on their backs and not on their stomach. Hopefully they know."

Thomas acknowledged for many Utah families, unlicensed, home-based child care may be the only type they can afford but fears children will pay the price for the lack of oversight. She contended the bill does nothing to effectively address the high cost of child care in Utah, and thinks state dollars should help in the effort to moderate it. 

Thomas noted there are some guardrails in place for residential child care, such as mandatory background checks for unlicensed providers, and a limit of two children under age three as part of the maximum total. While some Utah households are able to afford to have a parent stay home to provide care, Thomas stressed for most, it has become a luxury. 

"Nobody should feel ashamed about their child care situation," Thomas asserted. "A lot of people do use unlicensed care, because that is all that is nearby, and that is all that is all they can afford. Moving forward, I would love it if parents realize that is a system problem, that is not a parent problem."

Thomas added research across the country shows loosening standards do nothing to improve the cost or availability of child care.