Providers, parents push for more expansive child care funding in Minnesota
Public testimony to the House Children and Families Finance and Policy Committee this week shows affordability continues to be a serious issue for middle class families.
Child care funding increased for providers and families this year in Minnesota.
But public testimony to the House Children and Families Finance and Policy Committee this week shows affordability continues to be a serious issue for middle class families.
Shawntel Gruba is chief executive officer at the Iron Range Tykes Learning Center in Mountain Iron. Gruba told the committee she needs to raise rates at the center to make ends meet and expects to lose families in the process. These are families with solid jobs in mining and health care.
"At what point do they not make enough money to pay for child care?" Gruba said. "At what point do they decide that in order to make ends meet, they need to find a child care option that has much lower quality? This is a horrible decision to be forced to make."
Brittany Kjenaas of Mountain Iron, a parent of one, reinforced the challenges families face.
"She is our only child, and unless something changes in the cost of child care she will remain our only child," Kjenaas told legislators. "We pay more for child care than we do our mortgage and there's no way we could double that and still afford to live."
The Legislature already invested $300 million, including in early learning scholarships for 25,000 low-income and vulnerable children. But advocates say the income threshold is too low and leaves the majority of Minnesotans struggling.
DFL State Sen. Grant Hauschild of Hermantown is one of the legislators working on a proposal to ensure no family would pay more than 7% of their income on child care and early learning. Hauschild said child care concerns are a top issue for his rural constituents, not only for cost reasons but also availability.
Lack of affordable housing and child care combined make it harder for families in Greater Minnesota, he said, and limits economic development opportunities.
"If we want Minnesota to be the best place to raise a family, and support businesses, workforce and our economy, we must address the child care affordability crisis," Hauschild said.
The proposal is expected to be considered in the 2024 session.
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