State lawmakers propose plan to decrease child care costs
State lawmakers are calling the cost of child care unsustainable. During a House Children and Families Finance and Policy Committee meeting earlier this month, testifiers explained providers face high costs and either have to absorb the increase or raise rates. Families, meanwhile, are paying a large percentage of income on child care, often early in their career when they make less.
“We’re seeing this tremendous gap in support for almost 75% of Minnesota families, those who earn more than $60,000 per year,” said Rep. Carlie Kotyza-Witthuhn, DFL-Eden Prairie. “We know that families continue to struggle with the cost of early care and learning.”
A family of four qualifies for Minnesota’s Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) if they make less than $60,000, according to the Dpearmtnet of Human Services.
Kotyza-Witthuhn and Sen. Grant Hauschild, DFL-Hermantown, are proposing a plan to provide reimbursements for Minnesotans making up to $176,000 annually. Providers would receive the funding directly and then the discount would appear on a family’s monthly invoice.
The amount of aid is still being determined but would likely be a sliding scale based on income, the number of children and the age of children.
“We need to support middle class families who are struggling to make ends meet,” said Sen. Hauschild.
The federal government recommends families spend about 7% of their annual income on child care. In Minnesota, infant care costs about 21% of the median family income, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
“I rearrange my budget over and over again,” said Michelle Williams, a Maplewood mother who spends about 30% of her income on child care. “Almost impossible, you know, I’m a single mom.”
Her 2-year-old daughter goes to Playschool Child Care full time. She brings her other daughter, who is in kindergarten, there when school is out.
“I can’t even tell you how many tears were shed and how many different places I called,” she said.
Williams said the provider was the most affordable option, at about $205 per week.
Still, she called the cost “very stressful” and said, “I want to say I’m always a week behind trying to pay them.”
That stress is felt by providers, too.
“We want to be able to stay open and the biggest challenge is getting paid, getting paid on-time, enough to manage payroll every week,” said Mary Solheim, a director at Playschool Child Care who explained they try to accommodate families’ needs. “If a mom can afford one child but not the other one, we sometimes we’ll take that child for free so the other one can be here.”
Both Solheim and Williams support the lawmakers’ proposal.
“We need something going into the future, that supports families,” Solheim said. “We need to have families not be so overwhelmed with child care costs.”
Williams added, “I want people in power to understand how life-changing this would be for so many people.”
The legislative session starts in February.
Senator Hauschild and Representative Kotyza-Witthuhn held a news conference about the proposal on Thursday morning. You can watch the full conference in the video below.