SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Today, the House Early Childhood Finance and Policy Committee discussed a trio of bills authored by Rep. Liz Olson (DFL – Duluth) to address the state’s shortage of affordable child care, particularly in Greater Minnesota. Between 2000 and 2020 Greater Minnesota lost more than 20,000 child care spots, representing a 17% decrease. Based on current workforce needs, Greater Minnesota lacks more than 39,000 child care slots.
“The lack of child care in Greater Minnesota is one of the most significant economic barriers we face. No matter how many jobs we create, the inability for families to access child care will continue to be in the way of parents entering the workforce,” said Rep. Olson. “By successfully addressing this gap, our employers will no longer have to decide whether to grow or locate their business based on child care opportunities in a particular region, and families will no longer have to decide whether to work or where to work based on the availability of child care.”
HF 411 invests $10 million in the Department of Employment and Economic Development’s (DEED) Greater Minnesota child care facility capital grant program. The grant program was developed with the purpose to enhance, expand, or create new economic development in the area in which the grants are made by providing necessary child care facilities to support workers and their families. Grants can be used to acquire land and materials to build and equip child care facilities, and to upgrade or expand existing nonprofit child care facilities to meet state requirements. The funding requires a 50% nonstate match.
HF 412 invests $10 million for DEED to provide grants to increase the number of child care providers in local communities. Permitted uses of the grant funding include child care startups or expansions, facility modifications, training, and direct subsidies for retaining child care employees. The funding also requires a 50% nonstate match.
HF 413 invests $4 million in the six Minnesota Initiative Foundations (MIFs) to facilitate community-based planning, engage the private sector to invest local resources in building child care capacity, provide training and technical support to child care providers needed to build successful sustainable and profitable businesses, and assist providers to achieve a Parent Aware rating. When COVID-19 emerged, the MIFs created an emergency grant program for child care providers that filled the gap between the start of the pandemic and when the Legislature established emergency child care provider grants. Tony Sertich, president of the Northland Foundation, shared with the committee information about the organization’s efforts to expand child care.
The committee voted to advance HF 411 and HF 412 to the House Workforce and Business Development Committee. HF 413 was laid over for future consideration in a larger package of early childhood legislation.