The COVID-19 pandemic was the proverbial last straw for some Minnesota child care providers with financial and personal challenges leading to many business closures.
Subsequently, the lack of child care in Minnesota communities can make it difficult for local businesses to hire qualified workers, creating challenges for workforce development and economic growth.
Rep. Ami Wazlawik (DFL-White Bear Township) proposes to provide a financial cushion to help child care businesses through these difficult times. HF4133 would provide child care stabilization grants to providers on a continuing basis.
The bill would remove the sunset date and scale down requirements for the child care stabilization grant program that was established by the Legislature in 2021 with more than $304 million in federal COVID-19 relief money.
It would appropriate $73 million in fiscal year 2023 for the grants. Base funding for the program would be $153 million in each of fiscal years 2024 and 2025.
The bill was laid over by the House Early Childhood Finance and Policy Committee Thursday for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill. It has no Senate companion.
DFL members spoke about the long-term value of the grants in providing affordable and accessible child care to Minnesotans, helping children in their formative years and taking care of workforce development issues. Republicans were concerned about the indefinite funding provisions.
Rep. Mary Franson (R-Alexandria) said the state’s projected $9.25 billion budget surplus should not be eyed as a source of potential funding because it could dwindle given the global economic uncertainty.
Sponsored by Rep. Carlie Kotyza-Witthuhn (DFL-Eden Prairie), HF4278, as amended, would appropriate $255,000 in fiscal year 2023 for a Department of Employment and Economic Development study on the early childhood education workforce in Minnesota.
According to the bill, “This study shall provide a consolidated source of up-to-date data on the makeup of the early childhood education workforce; wages, income, and benefits in the industry; and barriers to entering these careers or retaining workers in the field, along with information on any other relevant issues identified during the research process.” The study must be completed within 18 months.
Approved 10-3, the bill was referred to the House Workforce and Business Development Finance and Policy Committee.