When parents have consistent, nurturing care for their children, families are more likely to prosper. Unfortunately, child care is getting more expensive — so expensive that many jobs don’t provide a paycheck big enough to cover both the basic necessities and the amount of child care that families need. But fewer Minnesota families are getting the help they need to afford child care through Basic Sliding Fee Child Care Assistance. Compared to 2002, Basic Sliding Fee now reaches about 2,000 fewer families in Greater Minnesota and about 1,700 fewer families in the seven-county metro area.
Basic Sliding Fee supports working families by bringing down the cost of child care. Households who earn less than 47 percent of the state’s median income ($43,000 for a family of four) are eligible to enroll, and pay a co-pay based on their income. Their child care provider receives a payment through their county.
However, funding shortfalls mean that thousands of eligible families go without Basic Sliding Fee. From 2003 to 2005, policymakers made deep cuts to Basic Sliding Fee. Adjusting for inflation, state funding levels remain 28 percent lower than they were 13 years ago. Those cuts mean fewer families can afford child care, particularly in Greater Minnesota.
I created a map demonstrating the decrease in the number of families served by Basic Sliding Fee since 2002. Of the 30 counties with the biggest percentage drop in the number of families served, 29 are in Greater Minnesota. Overall, 54 percent of the decrease in the number of families covered by Basic Sliding Fee since 2002 occurred in Greater Minnesota.
Because there isn’t nearly enough funding to reach every eligible family, Basic Sliding Fee has a waiting list with about 5,800 families on it. Furthermore, when families can access Basic Sliding Fee, the rates paid to child care providers are so low that providers may choose not to serve Basic Sliding Fee families at all — particularly in today’s market, when the demand for child care outpaces the supply in many areas.
The basic necessities are the same in St. Peter and St. Paul — parents and children everywhere need affordable child care. This map clearly tells a story about the statewide impact of Minnesota’s under-investment. If that story doesn’t change, the next chapters will only be worse for working families.