Ensuring more Minnesota families have affordable child care is one of our top priorities. It is no secret that child care is expensive; no parent would be surprised to learn that Minnesota is in the bottom five states for affordability when it comes to center-based care for infants or four-year-olds.
Our latest issue brief, Time to Invest in Affordable Child Care through Basic Sliding Fee, describes why Basic Sliding Fee is an important tool in achieving that goal. Basic Sliding Fee reaches across the state, supports parents’ efforts to attend school or work and provides care year-round for children from birth until age 12 (and age 14 if they have special needs).
Since the 1980s, Basic Sliding Fee has used a simple approach so that families can meet their child care needs. Parents make an income-based co-payment, and the state pays an additional amount to child care providers based on a child’s age, location and type of care. This allows parents to get to work, job training or class while their children can thrive in reliable, consistent settings. Thanks to Basic Sliding Fee, employers have access to a broader workforce when they need to fill crucial vacancies.
Unfortunately, inflation-adjusted state funding for Basic Sliding Fee has decreased by 44 percent since FY 2003. More than 5,500 families were on the waiting list at last count, and thousands more are eligible but have not signed up. Meanwhile, for families using Basic Sliding Fee or other forms of Child Care Assistance, a shrinking state reimbursement rate for child care providers has made it harder for parents to find consistent care.
As state policymakers build the budget this session, they should keep all of these facts in mind. As the economy recovers, Minnesota’s businesses can’t afford to have willing-to-work parents sitting on the sidelines. Investing in affordable child care through Basic Sliding Fee would help ensure that the high costs of child care don’t leave children, parents and employers out of our improving economic picture.