LOCAL NEWS

More kids in unlicensed day care? Utah Legislature mulls changing state law

Feb 12, 2024, 9:44 PM | Updated: Feb 13, 2024, 9:41 am

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers are considering a proposal to boost the number of children allowed in unlicensed day care facilities.

The sponsor of HB153, Rep. Susan Pulsipher, R-South Jordan, told KSL TV her bill is aimed at “trying to provide more offerings for child care” at a time when many families are struggling to find and pay for it.

But opponents argue it would put kids at risk.

Pulsipher’s bill would allow up to eight children at an unlicensed daycare provider. Currently, the law caps that number at six children. HB153 would also require unlicensed providers to get a background check – a new addition to the bill after pushback from child advocates.

Daycare provider Lizabeth Rose said she understands the importance of finding affordable child care. But, she added, licensing is important. (KSL TV)

“I think requiring the background checks should relieve a lot of the concern,” Pulsipher said.

It isn’t. The advocacy organization Voices for Utah Children is opposing the measure – even though it also includes an expansion to a state tax credit that parents can claim for their young children.

“We are disappointed that we must still oppose a Child Tax Credit bill we were looking forward to supporting,” said Anna Thomas, Voices for Utah Children policy director, in a statement. “But this limited tax credit is not worth sacrificing the health and safety of Utah’s youngest community members.”

Thomas said while she appreciates the addition of required background checks, she is worried about a lack of requirements for safety inspections, first aid and CPR training, and regular oversight for unlicensed child care providers who would be taking care of more children.

“It is incredibly offensive to a lot of licensed child care providers and, I think, reflects the Legislature’s unwillingness to do anything about child care that isn’t free, easy, and completely outside of their view,” Thomas said in a recent interview.

Day care provider Lizabeth Rose. (KSL TV) (KSL TV) (KSL TV)

At First Steps Childcare & Preschool in Salt Lake City, day care provider Lizabeth Rose said she understands the importance of finding affordable child care. But, she added, licensing is important.

“I think it’s that extra cushioning for parents to know that their children are extra safe,” Rose said, noting her facility undergoes regular inspections and is required to take extra health and safety steps.

But Pulsipher defended adding more capacity for unlicensed at-home providers, many of whom she said are often more flexible and give families more options.

Pulsipher also said expanding the child tax credit will give families who need it more money.

“These are families that are in medium, low incomes,” Pulsipher said. “These families can get a tax credit to help them with whatever they need it for.”

HB153 passed out of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee on Tuesday morning in a 6-4 vote. It now awaits a vote in the full House of Representatives.

KSL 5 TV Live

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More kids in unlicensed day care? Utah Legislature mulls changing state law