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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Dave Pinto (DFL)

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Release: House DFLers advance bills to support children, families, and early learning

Thursday, April 20, 2023

SAINT PAUL, Minn. – House DFLers today passed two Children and Families budget bills for the upcoming biennium. The first bill, HF 238, comprises human services programs, with broad support for children and families. The second, HF 2292, delivers early education finance components. Together, these bills provide over $2 billion over the next four years in transformational investments in affordable and accessible child care and early learning, shelter and dignity to those experiencing homelessness or food insecurity, economic supports for families, and more.

“Every child deserves a great start to life,” said Rep. Dave Pinto (DFL-Saint Paul), chair of the House Committee on Children and Families and author of the bills. "The historic investments in this budget will help get thousands of Minnesota children on that better path, for the benefit of all of us."

Child care and early learning is in deep crisis in our state after decades of underfunding - unaffordable for families and paying poverty wages to caregivers. These two budget bills prioritize historic investments in this critical sector, including early learning scholarships for thousands of low-income and vulnerable infants and toddlers, increased reimbursement rates and access under the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP), expanded Head Start, and "Great Start" compensation support payments for teachers.

“House DFLers are making historic investments to support families, close our state’s unacceptable opportunity gaps, and make child care more affordable and accessible,” said Speaker Melissa Hortman. “Getting our children off to a great start doesn’t just help our state in the short run, it’s a critical investment for our state’s future success. Our children are only young once. Investments now will positively impact them for the rest of their lives.”

House File 238 also incorporates the Pathway Home Act - historic levels of funding to ensure that homelessness in Minnesota is rare, brief, and nonrecurring. This includes $150 million to add much-needed shelter capacity, as well as several hundred million dollars more for shelter operations, transitional housing, and support for youth experiencing homelessness and exploitation. 

“This budget bill is about making Minnesota the best state in the nation for children and families. This budget bill is inspired by the people and places who are asking for change, because the status quo hasn’t been working well for a very long time,” said House Majority Leader Jamie Long. “Families are paying as much or more than their monthly mortgage payment for child care. Businesses cannot hire employees because it’s more cost effective for a parent to stay home than work full time. I want to thank Chair Pinto and Vice Chair Keeler for putting together a budget that makes bold investments in our children, our families, our child care providers, and our economy. This budget will help to ensure that all Minnesotans have the opportunity to succeed.”

House DFLers are prioritizing economic assistance for families in the budget with improvements to the Minnesota Family Investment Program, including allowing families to remain on the program for six months, rather than needing to renew monthly, and assessing eligibility based on forecasted income rather than past earnings, which may not reflect current needs. The budget also contains grants for diaper distribution, food security, and kinship services to help children in the welfare system remain with relatives. Much of this funding is established in partnership with Minnesota's Tribal nations, honoring their sovereignty.

“Investing in food insecurities, ending homelessness, and protecting our kids in the child welfare system are ways that we will support a future generation that can thrive in Minnesota,” said Rep. Heather Keeler (DFL-Moorhead), vice chair of the House Children and Families committee. “I’m extremely proud of the bold stance that the House has taken on these areas.”

In addition to these specific areas of funding, the budget bills build for the future through systemic reform. They invest in IT and other system infrastructure, establish a first-ever statewide assessment of kindergarten readiness, and create a Department of Children, Youth, and Families, to place children at the center of state government. A video of today’s floor debate will be available here. The bill’s companion is traveling in the Senate.