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Roughly 74,000 Minnesota children under 6 live in poverty. About 31,000 children statewide received child-care assistance in 2013, but public money is helping in other ways.
The Legislature allocated $46 million for scholarships in 2013, which will help pay for some 10,000 kids to get child care. A federal Race to the Top grant for another $45 million will pay to improve early learning opportunities statewide.
Ann McCully, at Child Care Aware, said the new funding is good, but many parents, especially those in rural areas, still can’t pay enough for child care to make it a viable business.
“The funding is much more than we’ve ever had, which is great,” McCully said. “The fear is what happens when interest in that potentially wanes. There’s always the nervousness in our community — are we the shiny object of the moment?”
Franson, the legislator, said the regulatory environment is partly to blame for the shortage, and the paperwork has become too much of a hassle. Until the economy strengthens, wages rise and the economics of caring for babies start to add up, parents will struggle to find good care, she said.
“The state can increase funding all they want,” Franson said, “but that doesn’t solve the shortage issue.”
Adam Belz • 612-673-4405 Twitter: @adambelz