Major investments in child care, early learning and homelessness form the core of the omnibus children and families finance bill unveiled Tuesday.
Sponsored by Rep. Dave Pinto (DFL-St. Paul), HF238 was modified by a delete-all amendment adopted by the House Children and Families Finance and Policy Committee during a morning hearing, then members were given a walkthrough of the bill.
The budget target for children and families agreed to last week by legislative leaders and Gov. Tim Walz, calls for $1.17 billion in new General Fund spending during the upcoming biennium: $875 million in health and human services; $300 million for early education.
The bill hits those targets.
“In a number of areas we are making transformational change in response to some really significant needs that we’ve heard in the committee,” Pinto said.
One of the largest single appropriations proposed over base budget is a $270.9 million increase in funding for the Early Learning Scholarship Program that helps low-income families with young children access programs that prepare them to attend school.
During a February hearing the committee was told the scholarships are one of the best methods to prevent opportunity gaps from opening among children.
Other substantial spending increases in the education portion of the bill include:
The largest new spending appropriations in the health and human services portions of the bill include:
Among the bill’s other notable provisions would be the creation of a new state agency. The Department of Children, Youth, and Families would combine core child, youth and family support programs to better serve Minnesota’s children.
The Human Services, Education, Health and Public Safety departments would be required to transfer responsibilities that would fall under the jurisdiction of the new department, along with relevant staff and unexpended appropriations.
Funding for informal kinship caregivers is also included, with $2 million appropriated for kinship care support grants. Kinship care is commonly defined as the full-time care of a child by relatives, members of a tribe or clan, godparents, stepparents, or other adults who have a family relationship to the child. Nearly 80,000 children in the state are being raised informally by a relative.
A homeless youth pilot project that would provide a direct cash stipend to homeless youth in St. Louis County is also included in the bill. The project would need to be designed to meet the needs of underserved communities.
Pinto said the committee plans to meet Wednesday morning to take public testimony, then meet Thursday to consider amendments, discuss the bill and take a final vote.
What’s in the bill?
The following are selected bills that have been incorporated in part or in whole into the omnibus children and families finance bill: