Low-income Minnesota children, parents, and employers all benefit from Minnesota’s Child Care Assistance Program, a $250 million state/federal partnership that helps 15,000 Minnesota income-eligible working families afford child care expenses for 30,000 children. Minnesota’s Child Care Assistance Program is a two generation approach to broader economic security — it helps parents get to work and provide for their families and helps children to succeed. Child Care Assistance is the most essential state support for low-income infants and toddlers, the years when brain development is most rapid, child care is hardest to find and most expensive, and parents have tough decisions to make about their ability to participate in the workforce.
Increased Need, Decreased State Support
The Child Care Assistance Program has never recovered from massive cuts in 2003. Since then state investment in the Basic Sliding Fee portion of the program has decreased by 37 percent and 5,700 fewer families are served. About 1,700 families across the state are on waiting lists and many previously eligible working low-income families no longer qualify for the program at all. Over this same time, reimbursement rates paid to child care providers fell. In 2003, 75% of providers were fully compensated for the care they provided through the program; today that has dropped to just 13% of Family Care providers and 23% of Center providers.
Lack of State Investment Jeopardizes Federal Funding
Minnesota is out of compliance with federal law on the reimbursement rates paid to child care providers, jeopardizing funding. The federal recommendation is that states pay the 75th percentile of current child care market rates for families using the program. This means that families should be able to use this reimbursement to cover the costs of roughly 3 of every 4 providers in their area, ensuring access and choice. Today our reimbursement rates sit at the 25th percentile of 2011 market rates, woefully out of step with the current cost of providing child care and with most other states.
The Time to Act is Now
Children and parents can’t wait any longer for increased investments in child care and neither can child care providers, communities, or our state. That’s why the Kids Can’t Wait Coalition, a group of nonprofit, faith and business advocates, are advocating for the Child Care Assistance Program to be fully funded and providers reimbursed at the federally recommended levels so it’s available and easily accessible to all eligible families.