Child care workers, lawmakers, work to establish a lifeline for rural child care

Establishing a lifeline for rural child care

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(ABC 6 News) – Child care across rural Minnesota has been hanging by a thread in recent years and local child care providers are asking lawmakers to hear and act on their pleas.

Thursday in Blooming Prairie, lawmakers and child care providers hosted a round table on solutions they hope to tackle in the upcoming legislative session.

While many types of solutions were discussed, one thing all panelists and lawmakers could agree on is that rural child care across the state cannot operate under a one-size-fits-all approach.

Rural child care has seen deficiencies across Greater Minnesota for decades. The pandemic only amplified those problems into the public eye further. Now, people working throughout the child care sector are asking lawmakers to seal the cracks before failing our future.

“The licensers and providers know it best and they’re all saying the same thing,” said Amy Hinzmann, board chair of Leo Augusta in Blooming Prairie. “They’re all saying help us retain workers, help us pay meaningful wages to these women, help us feel valued.”

And lawmakers are listening ahead of their upcoming session in St. Paul. Senator Carla Nelson is inspired by Iowa with her upcoming bill, asking businesses to pitch in.

“The child care crisis is so great, it is an all hands on deck moment and we need to have businesses come in and support that child care facility, we need benefactors,” said Nelson.

Hinzmann says the benefactors’ help is a lifeline.

“I don’t believe there is even a single child care provider out there that is attempting to make a profit.”

But it’s not just out-of-home child care providers needing assistance, it’s those taking care of kids in their homes, too.

“The things we struggle with is you will see a lot of homes close and not a whole lot of new people are applying to become child care providers. At the same time you have a workforce crunch and a job crunch in this state,” said Patricia Harrelson, Child and Family Manager at Minn Prairie Alliance.

The work/life balance of parents taking up shifts and finding child care providers flexible with their schedule is another issue at hand.

But all parties can agree the more money brought in from businesses and the state will help break away from a one-size-fits-all approach regarding rural child care.

Another big boost was announced just last week, with Governor Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan announcing $6.2 million in child care grants, the state’s largest ever.