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House passes $52 million to bolster child care for families while helping providers

Access and affordability have posed problems for families in need of child care, as have workforce shortages and profitability for those who provide it.

Those issues were only exacerbated over the last few years by the pandemic, although funding from the federal government offered much needed relief. But with some of that funding soon set to expire, lawmakers would like the state to step in to avert what some have termed a looming “child care crisis.”

The House acted Monday, voting 70-60 to pass HF150 that would bolster the child care system by appropriating more than $52 million to help both families and providers alike.

Sponsored by Rep. Dave Pinto (DFL-St. Paul), the bill, which now heads to the Senate, would make two appropriations from the state’s General Fund in fiscal year 2023:

Those grants began in 2021 with $300 million in federal COVID-19 relief money to provide monthly grants to eligible child care providers in Minnesota. They will remain available through June 30, 2023, but Pinto said the payments are to be cut in half in March.

The scholarships are meant to help low-income families with young children access programs designed to prepare them to begin school and must be used in specific Parent Aware programs that are part of the state’s quality rating and improvement system.

Pinto called the bill a tourniquet on a gaping wound that serves as a short-term solution.

“This is a bill that is designed to make sure families can get child care and early learning right away,” Pinto said.

Several Republicans objected to funding the stabilization grants, saying they do not work.

“This is not a wise use of this money,” said Rep. Walter Hudson (R-Albertville). 

He unsuccessfully offered an amendment that would have moved the $12.5 million appropriation from the stabilization grants to the early learning scholarships, saying need for the grants has abated and the money should go directly to parents and empower them to choose the care that best suits their children.

Rep. Natalie Zeleznikar (R-Fredenberg Township) offered another amendment that would have changed how the stabilization grant formula works. It, too, was not adopted.

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