The legislature has returned from Easter/Passover break and we are continuing work on the two-year budget.
This week, the Early Childhood committee, which I serve as vice-chair, approved HF 2230, the Early Childhood Finance and Policy bill. Earlier, during our committee’s work, we learned about the scope and the severity of the crisis that exists in early care and education. The years from birth to five are critical for healthy growth and development and public investments are at the lowest during those years. We also know that parents are stretched thin to afford care and too many childcare workers are among the least paid professionals.
There are many challenges, but if our House Early Childhood budget bill becomes law, it will make a significant down payment toward the investments we need to support Minnesota's youngest and their families.
HF 2230 proposes the following investments:
- Raises the rates for Child Care Assistance payments and reprioritizes assistance through the Basic Sliding Fee so more families are served, leveraging federal dollars.
- Increases rates available to Legal Non-Licensed providers (Family, Friend, and Neighbor care is eligible to be LNL).
- Modernizes childcare regulations and creates an Ombudsperson position.
- Directs 75% of federal stabilization grants to employees.
- Increases funds and expands eligibility for Early Learning Scholarships to all children 0-5.
The bill also aims to create and maintain a sound early care and education infrastructure by studying how to better consolidate and coordinate programs. It also creates a Great Start for All Minnesota Children Task Force to develop a plan to ensure that all working families have access to high quality and affordable childcare and early childcare workers can earn a livable wage.
I believe that these proposals put forward are needed to guarantee each child, from the very start, has the best care and education no matter what they look like and where they live.
In addition to HF 2300, the House DFL legislative leaders unveiled key budget bills which include significant ongoing investments in education and prioritizes economic assistance to those most impacted by COVID-19. The legislation asks big corporations and the wealthiest to pay their fair share to contribute to these needed investments to help those most impacted by the pandemic.
The eligibility for vaccines recently expanded in response to the increased federal government supply expected to arrive in Minnesota this month. Governor Walz announced this week more than three million COVID-19 vaccines have been administered!
If you haven’t received your vaccination, take a look at Minnesota’s COVID-19 mn.gov/vaccineconnector, call 833-431-2053 or check with your health insurance carrier to help you find out when, where, and how to get a vaccine.
You can learn the most recent statistics on who is getting vaccinating and other key data by clicking on this link.
I am still asking for your feedback on potential issues of discussion this legislative session. Your priorities are important to me. Please take a moment to click on this link and complete my legislative survey. [You may note this survey was created prior to the February forecast announcement and question #4 does not reflect the current one-time $1.6 billion projected positive balance].
Everyone can work to reduce the spread of COVID-19
- Wear masks when in public. 10-50% of virus carriers are asymptomatic (are not experiencing any symptoms). Wearing masks helps control the virus and has been shown to lessen COVID-19 spread.
- Avoid enclosed spaces with groups of people, where the virus can linger in the air for long periods of time.
- Get tested if you have cold or flu-like symptoms.
- Stay six feet away from others.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or sleeve, or a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands afterwards.
- Washing your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom or before eating. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid touching your face – especially your eyes, nose, and mouth – with unwashed hands.
- Up-to-date guidance is available from the Department of Health.
Stay connected with the legislature
The Minnesota House will continue to operate remotely, as we did throughout most of 2020. The House has ensured openness and transparency for the public by expanding the number of simultaneous committees it can webcast live?from a maximum of two to five, so you can stay current on issues moving through committees this budget session.
Also, the Minnesota House of Representatives Public Information Services offers nonpartisan recaps of high-profile bills, committee hearings, and floor sessions with their Session Daily publication. Subscribe to receive these here. To track bills of interest through the legislative process, I encourage you to utilize the MyBills feature on the Minnesota House of Representatives’ website here.
Please continue to reach out with any input, ideas, or feedback about the issues important to you. I value hearing from you, so please don’t hesitate to call or email me any time. You can also connect with me on Facebook here. It’s an honor to represent you at the State Capitol.