According to Walz, access to childcare will be a “fundamental priority” in the Minnesota legislature

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz promised Thursday that access to childcare will be a “fundamental priority” in the upcoming legislative session, stressing its importance to the state’s economic growth.

The DFL governor said Minnesota’s multibillion-dollar budget surplus presents a rare opportunity to expand childcare availability and increase affordability. Walz announced new funding to expand the state’s childcare offering and considered further actions during a roundtable discussion with state and nonprofit leaders on Thursday.

“You got our commitment from our administration… We are at a very unique and opportune time to be able to address this,” Walz said during the discussion at Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio (CLUES) in St. Paul. “This issue of childcare is fundamental to our economic growth.”

Walz’s spending ambitions will find a receptive audience on the state Capitol for the next two years now that Democrats now control both the House and Senate. He said the Democrats who run those chambers also see child care as a top priority.

State legislatures return to the Capitol in January.

Department for Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Commissioner Steve Grove estimated that Minnesota will need 80,000 to 90,000 additional child care places to meet demand.

Walz and Grove announced Thursday that DEED has awarded approximately $2.4 million in child care grants to 17 organizations across the state. That funding will help add about 2,700 new child care places, Grove said.

Over the past five years, DEED has provided more than $4 million to organizations looking to expand access to affordable childcare. The financing is intended to create almost 9,500 new childcare places.

“Childcare is consistently cited as the number one barrier preventing people from entering the workforce,” Grove said.

In Greater Minnesota, employers desperate for labor have turned down job offers from applicants unable to find housing or childcare, said Scott McMahon, executive director of the Greater Minnesota Partnership.

About 43,000 more child care places are needed in the greater Minnesota area, McMahon said.

State Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead said the number of licensed child care centers in Minnesota increased slightly year-over-year. But family childcare providers have declined due to retirements and people moving to more profitable, less demanding careers.

More funding is needed to open new childcare businesses and expand existing ones, Harpstead said. The state should also consider wage subsidies to help daycares retain employees.

“We need new and creative approaches,” Harpstead said.


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