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Walz announces new affordable child care funding

Minnesota often tops lists for most expensive child care in the U.S. Areas outside the Twin Cities metro lost more than 20,000 child care slots between 2000 and 2020.

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Breyer Hoechst, from left, teacher Brittany Steinkraus, Bridger Martinez, Aubrie Klinker, and Harriet Choi during snack break Dec. 14, 2021, at Little Mariners Daycare and Preschool.
Steve Kuchera / File / Duluth News Tribune
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ST. PAUL — Gov. Tim Walz has announced funding for day care facilities across Minnesota in a round of grants aimed at increasing access to affordable child care in a state where services are among the most expensive in the U.S.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development is awarding nearly $2.5 million in grants to 17 child care-providing organizations in Minnesota. The funds are intended for projects including new child care facilities, training, licensing and partnerships with local employers, the Walz administration said in a news release Thursday.

“In every community across the state, we hear from families and small businesses that increasing access to affordable child care is the best way to support our workforce, grow our economy, and foster economic prosperity,” Walz said in a statement. “These grants reach communities across our state to help increase child care access and ensure families and our youngest Minnesotans receive the care and early education they deserve.”

The average cost of child care for infants in Minnesota is about $16,087 per year, or $1,341 per month, according to a 2019 report from the Economic Policy Institute. Minnesota ranked fourth highest in the U.S. that year, and has typically topped national lists of states for expensive child care.

The Center of Rural Policy and Development found the number of day care openings in Greater Minnesota dropped by around 20,000 between 2000 and 2020, a trend largely driven by the decline of family-based child care.

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State officials said they gave priority to communities with child care provider shortages. Those shortages could include disparities in access to affordable child care in rural and low-income areas, as well as people of color and people with disabilities.

DEED Commissioner Steve Grove said lack of quality child care can hurt workforce growth, and that growing available slots for child care is a key part of the administration’s economic strategy. Staffing issues have plagued employers in Minnesota and across the U.S. since COVID-19 shut down much of the economy in spring 2020.

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Ahead of the 2022 legislative session, Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan proposed a $5 billion boost to child care, schools and family leave programs. Democrats in the Legislature said at the time that their priorities aligned with the governor, though the expansive proposal never gained any momentum in the Legislature. With Democrats now in complete control of state government, there could be movement on child care legislation when lawmakers reconvene in January.

Since 2017, Minnesota's economic development agency has awarded more than $4 million to create over 9,000 new openings for child care across the state, according to the governor’s office.

Award recipients in Thursday’s round of grants include:

  • Cook County and Grand Marais EDA, $180,000.
  • Duluth Area Family YMCA, $150,000.
  • Greater Bemidji, Inc., $200,000.
  • Jasmin Child Care and Preschool, Moorhead, $120,000.
  • Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar, $200,000.
  • Nobles County Community Service Agency, Worthington, $150,000.
  • Northland Foundation, Duluth, $250,000.
  • Northwest Minnesota Foundation, Bemidji, $50,000.
  • Otter Tail County, Fergus Falls, $160,000.
Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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