DENVER (CBS4) – Thousands of parents have left the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the lack of available child care. Now, Colorado lawmakers are trying to help get them back to work.

The House Education Committee approved a bill on Wednesday to invest in early childhood education and care providers. Senate Bill 21-236 would create a new employer-based Child Care Facility Grant Program that would award matching grants to employers to build on-site or near-site licensed child care facilities.

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“The robust investments that this bill channels into early childhood education and child care will support working parents returning to their places of employment  post-pandemic, create and retain good jobs for educators, and help beat back some of the worst effects of the economic downturn that disproportionately affected women,” said state Rep. Kerry Tipper, a Democrat who represents Lakewood.

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The bill would prioritize employers whose workforce earns below the area median income. The bill also funnels hundreds of millions of federal dollars into programs to recruit and retain early childhood educators and support mental health.

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The bill would also provide financial support to licensed child care facilities and neighborhood youth organizations that are in danger of closing. The legislation is part of the Colorado Comeback state stimulus, which will invest roughly $800 million into the state’s economy.