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Park Rapids: It’s time to support the workforce behind the workforce

In Park Rapids, 36 licensed child care providers are doing their best to provide critical care and early education for children.

JodiHarpsteadMug2022.jpg
Jodi Harpstead, commissioner, Minnesota Department of Human Services
Contributed/Minnesota Department of Human Services
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Minnesota has a rare opportunity this legislative session to dramatically improve the lives of working families and their communities.

In one fell swoop, we can support parents, employers and Minnesota’s economy.

By helping child care providers, we can increase access to child care, enable parents to work and stabilize our workforce for a more resilient economy.

Throughout Minnesota, parents have told us loudly and clearly they cannot find affordable, quality child care.

In Park Rapids, 36 licensed child care providers are doing their best to provide critical care and early education for children.

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At the heart of the problem, child care providers aren’t being compensated as well as they should be.

Minnesota’s Child Care Assistance Program rates often are below what providers charge. In Park Rapids, rates for family child care providers and child care centers can fall short, sometimes by roughly $4 to $14 or more per week, per child. This means a lot to a provider already struggling to make ends meet and provide quality care, and limits family access in a competitive market.

The child care industry has been in crisis for a long time, but three critical pieces of legislation, now being considered by Minnesota policymakers, can move us forward in supporting child care providers and working families.

Build and stabilize child care industry Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, both the federal and state government have provided grants to child care providers to help them stay in business.

Yet many continue to struggle with rising costs and thin profit margins. To support those who are still experiencing financial hardship, Gov. Tim Walz recommends additional funding to the following:

  • Ensure the continued availability of child care openings for parents;  
  • Increase training and recruitment of qualified staff to work in the child care sector;
  • Expand opportunities for small providers to share services; and 
  • Improve provider business practices through technology access and other supports.

Increase child care assistance provider rates  Each month, Minnesota’s Child Care Assistance Program serves approximately 15,000 families with low incomes and their 30,000 children so parents can work.
Gov. Walz recommends increasing child care assistance rates paid to providers beginning later this year, and automatically updating those rates based on market rate surveys starting in 2025 and every three years thereafter.

Ensure child care is affordable for foster families Changing the definition of family for purposes of child care assistance eligibility will make it easier for families to be foster parents for young children, and ensure that the cost of child care isn’t a barrier for relatives with lower incomes to provide foster care.

For further evidence this support is needed, look to a recent report on child care from the Minnesota Business Vitality Council. Based on interviews, surveys and focus groups with members of the business community, child care providers and other organizations, the report highlights child care and early education as a critical piece of our state’s economy, noting the lack of child care options impacting Minnesota’s employers and workforce today have ramifications for years to come.

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This is in legislators’ hands to decide now. We remain hopeful they will do what is right for child care providers, families and our economy.

Child care providers are the workforce behind the workforce. During the pandemic, they ensured many parents – including emergency and health care workers – could continue to work. Now, we need to step up to help them. They are critical to parents, employers and our economy.

Related Topics: CHILD CAREHUBBARD COUNTY
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