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Potential care cuts evoke emotions

Published (2/13/2009)
By Kris Berggren
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Child care users and providers told the House Early Childhood Finance and Policy Division Feb. 5 that the governor’s proposed $10.3 million cut to child care assistance could push children out of high-quality care settings and close providers’ doors.

They object to the assumption there was a surplus last year in a sliding fee child care assistance program used by thousands of low-income working families. They said the surplus is the result of technical issues regarding how funds are allocated based on prior year numbers that don’t reflect actual need.

“We want to make it crystal clear to the members of this committee that there isn’t a surplus in the child care assistance fund, but that, in fact, there are 7,000 families who are waiting for child care on the waiting list,” said Susie Brown, executive director of Child Care WORKS.

Rep. Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville) called budgeting from the premise of underspent funds a “very bad trend.”

Testifiers said a proposed 3 percent drop in child care reimbursement rates to providers plus a 3 percent increase in parents’ co-payments will hurt both families and providers’ businesses.

A tearful Molly Thoulious said that she and her husband, who have four children, work three jobs between them and earn $50,000 annually, but still find themselves with a $319 deficit each month and rely on the subsidy to cover child care costs.

Bridget Bicknel, who assists her mother, a licensed care provider in St. Cloud, said the state’s reimbursement to a nationally accredited child care program in St. Paul is $310 per week for an infant; it’s only $107 to her mother’s program.

“If funds get cut more than they already have, we won’t be able to sustain our business and we’ll have to either not accept state-paid clients or we’ll go out of business,” Bicknel read from a letter her mother wrote to the division.

Susan Tenecyk-Stafki, executive director of Children’s Corner, said cuts could have a “harsh” impact, especially on rural Minnesota where child care centers are few and infant care is even more scarce and costly.

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