(The Center Square) - North Dakota is facing a child care provider shortage that affects economic growth, according to Gov. Doug Burgum.
Burgum, Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford and Department of Human Services Executive Director Chris Jones met with child care providers and business leaders on Monday to discuss the shortage's impact.
The meeting is one of several Burgum is holding throughout the state, addressing topics that affect policy and budgeting in the 2023 legislative session.
"We know if we're going to make progress in our state on solving the workforce issues, then we've got to solve the child care issues," Burgum said in a news release. "We know that workforce is the No. 1 thing that's holding back the economy in North Dakota."
More than 30,000 North Dakota children are in a child care setting, according to information from the U.S. Census and DHS. The state currently has 50,000 children under the age of five, according to the news release.
The state set aside $117 million in federal funds last year for child care. DHS changed the criteria for the state's child care assistance program in February. A family of three that makes $6,193 a month now qualifies for help.
Providing childcare is vital to growing the state's economy, Burgum said.
"We've got to increase workforce participation," the governor said. "Part of the way we do that is making sure that we have an opportunity for parents to participate or not drop out of the workforce for 'X' number of years because they can't afford the child care, it's not the quality that they want for their kids or it's not even available."
Child care also benefits families, Jones said.
"For families who have both parents in the workforce, their children who have quality child care early on are more successful throughout life," he said.