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A resolution to increase wages by two dollars an hour for eligible child care workers was approved unanimously May 18 during a Johnson County Board of Supervisors meeting. First presenting a proposal to the board of supervisors in November, the Child Care Wage Enhancement program allows child care professionals to make $13.16 an hour, so long as they work at least 32 hours per week in an early childhood classroom setting. The wage increase, funded by federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, will improve workers' annual salaries by approximately $4,000, from just over $23,000 to $27,372. Currently, workers in this industry make less money than any other tracked profession, and there are 552 unfilled child care slots due to a worker shortage. Under the proposal, the city of Iowa City and Johnson County will each provide $250,000 in seed money per year to fund initial operations. The business community, through liason Better Together 2030, will then invest $150 a year per employee once the $250,000 from ARPA funds is exhausted, said Laurie Nash, youth and family services manager for Johnson County, in a presentation to the board of supervisors during a work session May 17. Affordable child care is one priority Better Together 2030 — a collaborative effort to enact change spearheaded by critical stakeholders including the city's business districts, Think Iowa City, the downtown district, and the University of Iowa — is tackling, in addition to affordable housing, a regional transit system, high-speed internet and strategies geared toward upskilling. "I think this is a really well-thought-out and an exciting project," said vice chair Rod Sullivan. Community Foundation of Johnson County and Better Together 2030 will accept funds, while Johnson County Social Services will work with city staff to approve applications. Applications were due March 10. The program received 11 applications, with two not eligible. Six applications came from Iowa City, while centers in Coralville, North Liberty, Solon, Swisher and Tiffin also submitted applications. 4C's of Johnson Counnty will ensure child care centers are educated about the program and help get staff onboarded. The program has a budget of $500 per year, which will be met once applications are approved. Iowa City Council will need to formally approve the funds, said Ms. Nash. Child care centers have long been a priority at the state level. In May 2022, Gov. Kim Reynolds allocated $25 million in ARPA funds. The Iowa Insurance Division launched its Care4Kids initiative in April, designed to educate child care directors and home-based providers about state resources.