Washington A measure to improve access to child care that Sen. Pat Roberts has been pushing for more than a decade is closer than ever to becoming law.
The Senate agreed Tuesday to include the Kansas Republican's legislation in its version of a bill to increase the minimum wage.
Roberts' plan would provide incentives to small businesses to offer child care for employees with children. The measure is one of several incentives and tax breaks meant to soften the effect of a minimum wage increase on small businesses.
Those breaks for small businesses are not included in a measure passed by the House earlier this month that raises the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour over 26 months.
Boosting the minimum wage was one of the Democrats' top legislative priorities for the first 100 hours of the new session of Congress.
The Senate is expected to vote on the minimum wage bill next week.
"As we debate the issue of minimum wage, we cannot forget the impact on the employers who hire these minimum wage workers," Roberts said. "In Kansas, small businesses employ the majority of hardworking families."
Under Roberts' measure, small businesses would be eligible for grants of up to $500,000 for costs related to providing child care for employees. Businesses could work together or with other local child care agencies to offer day care services and would be required to match federal funds to participate.
The program would dispense $50 million over five years and end in 2012.
"This amendment would alleviate the strain on working families who often have to close the door on the opportunity to expand their income because of the lack of child care options in their communities," Roberts said.
The child care provision has strong bipartisan support in the Senate and opposition is not expected in the House.