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Making affordable child care available to more Minnesota families


The Minnesota Budget Project supports policies to ensure that more Minnesota families have affordable, reliable child care that meets their needs and supports their pathways to economic security.

We support: 

    • increased funding for Basic Sliding Fee child care assistance to serve more families;
    • improvements to make child care assistance work better for families, including those facing transitions; and
    • increased reimbursements to child care providers who participate in the child care assistance program to ensure families have choices when selecting providers.

What happened in the 2019 Legislative Session?

The final budget agreed to by Governor Tim Walz and the Minnesota Legislature includes important steps to bring child care assistance in Minnesota up to federal standards, which will make child care assistance work better for families experiencing homelessness and ensure families moving to another county don't lose their assistance.

Governor Tim Walz’s budget proposal for FY 2020-21 and the House's Health and Human Services budget included large investments in affordable child care that would have boosted funding so more families could participate and reduce waiting lists, and brought provider reimbursement rates closer to market rates. Unfortunately, none of these were included in the final budget agreement, representing a significant lost opportunity and unfinished business that policymakers will need to address in future years.

What's at stake?

When families have affordable child care, parents can succeed in the workplace; kids can develop, play, and thrive in safe and stable environments; and employers can find and retain the workers they need. 

Too many parents cannot find stable child care that meets their family’s needs. In Minnesota, the average cost of enrolling an infant in a child care center is $310 per week – that’s $16,120 per year. 

Families of color and families living in certain regions of the state feel the pressure most. Not only is care expensive, but finding care that reflects cultural values or languages can be exceptionally challenging. Minnesota has over 222,000 child care spaces, but over 300,000 kids under age 6 who might need a child care spot. 

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Basic Sliding Fee Child Care Assistance covers children up to age 12. It is available in every county for the number of hours and times of day parents need it so they can work. It allows parents the freedom to choose a provider that works for them. 

Minnesota’s investment in child care assistance hasn’t kept up with the needs of Minnesota families. Since FY 2003, state funding for child care assistance has dropped by 37 percent after adjusting for inflation. That means that many eligible Minnesota families are unable to get the help they need, and about 2,000 Minnesota families are on waiting lists. 

Even when parents are able to participate in Basic Sliding Fee, they may face an additional barrier: limited options. The state’s reimbursements payments to providers accepting Child Care Assistance are out of date and far below what many providers charge. This means that providers might lose money when they serve families using Basic Sliding Fee, and therefore may choose not to do so. Increasing reimbursement rates would increase parental choices.

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