Child care is critical to the ability of families to work, go to school, and contribute economically to our community. According to the Children’s Defense Fund's 2008 Kids Count Data Book, the average cost of full-time, year-round care for an infant at a child care center was $13,000 -- no small chunk of change!
Minnesota’s Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) is designed to help low-income families and families on public assistance pay for high quality child care while they work, look for work, or attend school. Specifically, child care assistance is available to families participating in the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP), families with a MFIP case that closed within the last 12 months, and low-income families that may be eligible for a basic sliding fee (BSF) scale program. During the state fiscal year 2008, there were an average of 8977 families per month receiving child care assistance through the BSF program. However, as of February 2009, there were close to 7500 families on the waiting list, a number which has climbed from 2900 in July of 2007.
Local nonprofit organization Child Care WORKS advocates increased funding for CCAP to eliminate the waiting lists for families needing child care assistance. They also recommend increasing the state’s reimbursement rates -- those payments the state makes to child care providers who provide care for families receiving child care assistance. In 2003, rates were frozen at 2001 levels and have increased only minimally since then. Those increases have not kept pace with the cost of providing care to children.
Federal stimulus funds in the amount of $26 million were announced in February through the federal Child Care Development Block Grant. Which is a good thing. Because in a January interview on Minnesota Public Radio when asked about child care assistance, Tim Pawlenty responded, “'There's a whole array of really good programs and the need always exceeds the resources.' He says the obligation is first to balance the budget and then provide for people in need, and then provide for the future. 'Our listeners have to come to understand the magnitude of the challenge we face. It would be nice to keep things the way it is, but we can't.'"
For personal questions on whether you're eligible, CDF's Bridge to Benefits has a lot of the answers.