SAINT PAUL, Minn. – On Saturday, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed the compromise Health and Human Services budget following a bipartisan agreement with the Senate. The budget contained several provisions authored by Rep. Ami Wazlawik (DFL – White Bear Township) to help Minnesotans access affordable, high-quality child care. Federal funding provided by the American Rescue Plan will be used to support some of these initiatives.
“Affordable child care makes it possible for parents to work, businesses to hire, and communities to grow,” said Rep. Wazlawik. “Expanding access to child care in our community and communities across the state is an investment in our future. The budget we approved this past weekend will help young Minnesotans get the high-quality care they deserve and provide more children with a foundation for long-term success.”
Many Minnesotans struggle to find affordable child care in their community. The Health and Human Services budget invests in several solutions, including legislation originally authored by Rep. Wazlawik that establishes a grant program to expand access to child care for children with disabilities.
While families struggle to afford child care, providers often operate on thin margins and child care professionals receive poverty-level wages. Several provisions introduced by Rep. Wazlawik help ensure child care providers can deliver high-quality care. For example, the budget establishes a one-stop regional assistance network to help family child care providers start and sustain child care programs. It also includes funds to update the Department of Human Services (DHS)’s website and to pilot a shared services program, which can help providers access business services and save them money.
To encourage child care professionals to stay in the field, the Health and Human Services budget invests in Teacher Education and Compensation Helps (TEACH) and Retaining Early Educators Through Attaining Incentives Now (REETAIN) grants, programs proposed by Rep. Wazlawik. TEACH grants provide scholarships of up to $10,000 per year to help child care workers earn college credits and degrees, with additional incentives for those who remain in the industry. The REETAIN program offers competitive grants to well-trained child care professionals. These investments will provide more stability for workers and the children and families they serve.
Many of Minnesota’s child care regulations date back to the 1980s and need to be updated. Rep. Wazlawik’s provisions will help modernize dated regulations and improve oversight of this critical industry. DHS will be required to partner with an experienced independent organization or consultant to review Minnesota’s licensing standards for family child care and child care centers and develop a proposal for revising them based on national best practices.