How much are we paying to care for other people’s children?
Last year Minnesota taxpayers spent $247 million from federal, state and county dollars to help parents pay for child care. The State of Minnesota subsidizes the cost of day care for more than 30,000 low income children each month.
For low income families in a basic sliding fee program, the average total monthly assistance was $1,030; for families in the Minnesota Family Investment Program, who are making more than 47 percent of the state median income, the average total monthly assistance was $1,486.
Along with proposals in the 2015-16 legislative session to generally increase funding, some unsuccessful attempts to expand child care assistance included HF3194, appropriating $3 million for at-home infant care; HF3275, increasing eligibility for child care assistance for parents who are in graduate school; and SF 3056, providing child care grants to help recruit, prepare and retain women in high–wage, high demand, nontraditional jobs.
Because of serious fraud in the day care system the legislature in 2015 gave the Department of Human Services more power to investigate and prosecute fraud, including one St. Paul day care center that bilked the State of more than $4 million that would have otherwise paid for care for a low-income child.
The 2016 legislature also passed a bill, SF 3208, that established a child care task to address the affordability of child care and related issues. The task force will report its findings to the legislature in January.
Gov. Dayton has stated that he wants to expand state-funded early education in part because child care is expensive. Parents who don’t qualify for state child care subsidies would no longer have to pay the out-of-pocket costs of child care while their children attend preschool programs. Advocates for expanding public preschool say families would save thousands of dollars every year: One infant and one four-year-old can cost Minnesota parents as much as $25,000 a year for day care.
Gov. Dayton’s original proposal would cost taxpayers $1.25 billion over the first four years, and hundreds of millions of dollars from the general fund every year thereafter.