All year long, policymakers, the public and a diverse group of advocates have been discussing the need to address the high price of child care in Minnesota. We’ve been talking about the reasons to increase funding for Basic Sliding Fee Child Care Assistance. Basic Sliding Fee keeps kids in reliable care environments, makes it easier for parents to get to work or school, and boosts the available labor pool for employers. This is why we were very glad to learn that the Senate Health and Human Services omnibus bill (Senate File 1458), authored by Senator Tony Lourey, increases funding for this flexible, common-sense approach to the high cost of child care.
The Senate proposal would mean about 700 families in FY 2016-17 and about 800 families in FY 2018-19 could better afford child care in an average month. It does so thanks to an additional $19 million in funding in FY 2016-17 and $24 million in FY 2018-19.
Lourey’s bill builds on the $12 million in increased funding for Basic Sliding Fee in Governor Mark Dayton’s FY 2016-17 budget. It acknowledges the bipartisan support for Senator Jeff Hayden (Senate File 1199) and Representative Mary Franson’s (House File 1057) proposals to make child care more affordable through Basic Sliding Fee supported by the Kids Can’t Wait Coalition. Most importantly, it recognizes the voices of Minnesotans who spoke to legislators about the missed opportunities and stress caused by high child care costs.
Senate File 1458 marks a turnaround from a long-term trend of disinvestment from Basic Sliding Fee. State funding for Basic Sliding Fee has declined 44 percent since FY 2003, adjusted for inflation. As a result, about 4,500 fewer families had affordable child care through Basic Sliding Fee in FY 2014 compared to FY 2003, and nearly 5,800 families currently sit on waiting lists throughout the state.
In contrast to the Senate proposal, the House Health and Human Services omnibus bill (House File 1638) provides no new funding for Basic Sliding Fee.
There are many good reasons to applaud the Senate’s action. It would allow hundreds more families to share in our state’s prosperity. Policymakers should adopt the Senate’s approach during the coming conference committee.