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RELEASE: House DFLers introduce “Pre to 3” legislation to give all children a strong start in life

Monday, March 21, 2016
Investments and reforms support children and families from prenatal to 3 years of age
Saint Paul, MINN – House DFL representatives have introduced a package of bills to give all children a strong start in life by making child care more affordable, supporting child care providers and expanding access to care, and increasing infant and child wellbeing. The “Pre to 3” legislative package targets investments and reforms that support children and families from prenatal to three years of age, a critical time period to ensure that children are healthy and prepared for success later in life.
“Every child deserves a strong start in life and it truly takes a village to ensure that all of our kids are getting that chance,” said State Rep. Peggy Flanagan (DFL – St. Louis Park), and member of the House Select Committee on Affordable Child Care. “This package of bills casts a wide net on the varied priorities that we must address to ensure our parents and providers have the support they need to help our children succeed.”
The “Pre to 3” package aims to make child care more affordable by fully funding the Basic Sliding Fee program, providing more affordable child care to the 6,890 Minnesota families currently on the waiting list. The package also would put more money in the pockets of families by increasing the child and dependent care tax credit, expanding eligibility to a total of 126,000 families. Minnesota is the least affordable state in the nation for center-based care for infants, with infant care costing an average of $14,366 annually. For the average single parent, that’s 54% of median family income.
“Child care is simply too expensive for Minnesota families and it’s about time we take action,” said State Rep. Rena Moran (DFL – St. Paul), author of the bill to eliminate the Basic Sliding Fee waiting list and increase provider rates. “Children and families should be a priority this session and one of the best ways we can help is by making child care more affordable.”
The “Pre to 3” package also includes investments and reforms to support child care providers. Some of the reforms include efforts to streamline and simplify regulations for child care providers and requiring that the Department of Human Services make prompt payments to child care providers.
“We have heard directly from child care providers about problems they have experienced with uneven application of rules and regulations across different counties and agencies,” said State Rep. Joe Mullery (DFL – Minneapolis), and member of the House Select Committee on Affordable Child Care. “Our aim is to make life easier on the child care providers who are working hard every day to care for our children. It’s our hope that streamlining regulations and prompt payments will help make it easier for people to choose child care as a career.”
State Rep. John Persell (DFL – Bemidji) said many of these initiatives will help increase access to child care in rural Minnesota. The “Pre to 3” package includes support for solutions to child care shortages in Greater Minnesota through grants to Minnesota’s six Initiative Foundations.
“Access to child care in rural Minnesota is a serious issue for families and one that we heard about consistently in our travel across the state,” said Persell, a member of the House Select Committee on Child Care. “We are addressing this problem in multiple ways in this package with the goal of supporting rural child care providers and increasing access to affordable care for families and children.”
Studies show that quality prenatal care and the early days and weeks of a child’s life are vital to their wellbeing. The “Pre to 3” package aims to increase infant and child wellbeing by increasing funding for home visiting and funding at-home infant care for new parents so more can afford to stay home with their babies. In addition, legislators would fully fund Early Head Start so at-risk children receive targeted care and services to promote healthy brain and social/emotional development.
“Studies show us that quality care for children starts before they are even born,” said State Rep. Dave Pinto (DFL – St. Paul). “We want to make sure parents, especially those who might be working two or three jobs just to provide for their kids, have opportunities and support around them so they can succeed.”
Flanagan, Mullery, and Persell all served on the House Select Committee on Affordable Child Care and credit the committee for its outreach across the state to hear from child care providers and parents. They hope the committee can work in a bipartisan fashion to move forward on these initiatives this session.
The full “Pre to 3” legislative package of bills is attached.