By Amanda Zoch
I recently joined the Elections and Redistricting team at NCSL, and in my early research on campaign finance, I was surprised to see so many incoming questions about the use of campaign funds for child care.
I shouldn’t have been.
Women spend nearly twice as much time as men on child care, according to the Pew Research Center, and are running for office in greater numbers than ever before in the history of the United States. NCSL recently reported, “the nationwide share of female legislators will be around 28.1% [in 2019], nearly 3 percentage points higher than in 2018.”
And while there are many factors behind the rise in legislation authorizing the use of campaign funds for child care expenses (including the fact that fathers are also spending more time on child care than they have in the past), I was intrigued to see these two trends emerge alongside one another.
In 2019, several states have introduced legislation to approve the use of campaign funds for child care, including California, Illinois and Rhode Island. Such legislation failed in Tennessee, but was enacted in others as dissimilar as New York and Utah.
In Colorado where I live, we saw SB19-229 go into effect on Sept. 1, 2019. This law, which had bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, permits candidate committees to use campaign contributions for the “reasonable and necessary expenses” of caring for children or other dependents.
Some states—such as Connecticut, Kansas, and Texas—have administrative processes for allowing candidates to spend campaign funds on child care, though candidates must often seek approval on a case-by-case basis.
On the federal level, the Help America Run Act proposes to amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to allow campaign expenditures on child care, as well as other personal use services including health insurance. This House bill is currently in committee.
With many bills still pending (as is the case in New Jersey, for example) it seems likely we can expect even more action on this issue in the coming legislative sessions.
Amanda Zoch is an NCSL legislative policy specialist and Mellon/ACLS Fellow.