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Child care assistance

Published (3/7/2008)
By Courtney Blanchard
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Putting a child in day care for the first years of his or her life can cost just as much, if not more, than college.

Most Twin Cities metropolitan area day cares charge around $160 per week, according to the St. Paul-based Resources for Child Caring. While many parents balk at the price of college tuition, day care costs can add up to more than $30,000 in just four years.

Minnesota’s Child Care Assistance Program helps low-income families afford child care by helping parents with part of the cost. But in recent years, child care rates have escalated as funding has been cut. Even with low reimbursement rates and strict eligibility criteria, the program currently has a waiting list of more than 4,000 families.

Rep. Nora Slawik (DFL-Maplewood), chairwoman of the House Early Childhood Learning Finance Division, sponsors three bills to inject funds into the program in hopes of shortening waiting lists and increasing reimbursement to providers. HF2637, HF2689 and HF2555 were laid over for possible inclusion in the division’s omnibus bill.

Slawik told the division March 4 that the budget deficit diminishes the likelihood that the bills will be funded, but said it’s important to keep the issue in mind.

Wendy Weber, a Maplewood parent of a 2- and 8-year-old said she’s on the waiting list for day care assistance. Childcare costs for her 2-year-old eat up nearly 38 percent of the family’s income, she said. That puts the family in a difficult situation, but without child care, she wouldn’t be able to work at all.

Sen. Linda Scheid (DFL-Brooklyn Park) sponsors a trio of companion bills. SF2850 awaits action in the Senate Health, Housing and Family Security Committee. SF2849 and SF2851 await action in the Senate Finance Committee.

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