After Months-Long Tour of State, U.S. Sen. Tina Smith Introduces Bill to Improve Access to Child Care in Minnesota, Nationwide

WASHINGTON, D.C. [10/01/18]—After hearing from families, business, and community leaders across Minnesota throughout this year, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) has introduced legislation to address the growing child care shortage across the state.

Sen. Smith said the shortage is not only hurting Minnesota working families who often must travel many miles to find child care, but it’s also stifled local businesses’ ability to attract workers, and it’s cut short many communities’ efforts to grow and prosper. 

Her legislation, the Child Care Supply Improvement Act, would provide assistance for child care facilities, support child care providers in areas related to safety and quality, help providers navigate important health and safety requirements, and support child care businesses. The bill would also support states and tribes in improving the administration of child care programs and would help determine how best to use resources in order to support communities in Minnesota and across the country. 

You can learn more about the Child Care Supply Improvement Act here.

Starting in February, Sen. Smith and her staff led a statewide “Child Care Access and Affordability” tour of 13 communities in all parts of Minnesota.

“I’ve heard from Minnesotans across the state about child care—I’ve heard from families who have to drive 50 miles to take their kids to child care, and those who are paying almost one-third of their income toward the cost of child care for just one kid,” said Sen. Smith. “And many parts of Greater Minnesota, in particular, are struggling with a shortage of affordable child care. I based this legislation on what I’ve been hearing about some of the challenges child care providers face. They need help with facilities, more support when it comes to navigating the system, and there’s a general need for greater coordination. My bill focuses on solutions to help combat the shortage, and increase the supply of quality child care.”

“Thank you to Senator Smith for her leadership on this critical issue,” said Matt Varilek, President of the Initiative Foundation. “In Central Minnesota our ‘child care deficit’ is nearly twice that of any other region supported by one of the Minnesota Initiative Foundations (MIFs), so we are very appreciative of any effort to elevate attention and resources for financially sustainable solutions to this crisis.”

“Lack of access to affordable child care is a problem throughout Northwestern Minnesota,” said Nancy Vyskocil, President, Northwest Minnesota Foundation. “The Child Care Supply Improvement Act will help support communities and providers in expanding the number of high quality child care options available to families.”

“Communities across our rural five-county service area are experiencing a child care crisis. The shortage of infant and toddler care makes it hard for new parents to work and for employers to retain quality staff. The Child Care Supply Improvement Act will be a big help to our region’s families, employers, and communities,” said Liz Kuoppala, Executive Director of Mahube-Otwa Community Action Partnership.

“We are seeing an alarming crisis in child care availability across the nation. In Minnesota, statistics show there is less than one child care slot for every four children, age birth to 4 years old, in the state,” said Barbara Yates, President and CEO of Think Small, a nonprofit that advances quality care and education for children in their crucial early years. “Senator Smith’s bill will address critical needs by supporting the early childhood workforce, addressing the concerns of parents and communities, and helping to stabilize the business of child care so that young children have access to quality early learning experiences­—greatly influencing their success in school and later in life.”

“The Minnesota Child Care Association is excited to see Senator Smith put forth legislation recognizing the many-faceted crisis of child care access and quality in Minnesota. This bill would provide more resources and greater flexibility to states to figure out local solutions and do some of what needs to be done. We need more licensed, accredited, and quality rated programs of all types to meet diverse family needs, and young children will benefit from more collaboration among child care, home visiting, Head Start, mental health, and school-based pre-k providers,” said Minnesota Child Care Association President Chad Dunkley.

Sen. Smith’s legislation is supported by the Southwest Initiative Foundation, Northwest Minnesota Foundation, Mahube-Otwa Community Action Partnership, Think Small, First Children’s Finance, and Art Rolnick in Minnesota. Her bill is also supported by the Center for Law and Social Policy, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), Child Care Aware® of America, First Five Years Fund, the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the National Association for Family Child Care, and the National Women’s Law Center. 

The Child Care Supply Improvement Act would help address challenges by:

  • Supporting new and existing child care facilities through grants, low-cost loans, or loan forgiveness programs to purchase, construct, or renovate child care facilities. 
  • Providing quality and compliance support to help providers navigate paths to get licensed, accredited, and enter a state’s quality rating system, and provide ongoing professional development. 
  • Helping providers get their child care programs up and running through business planning, orientations, and support in obtaining equipment and supplies. It would also support innovative models like co-located or employer-sponsored child care programs.
  • Improving data collection, increasing coordination, and improve licensing activities through outreach, technology, training for licensing inspectors, and streamlining paperwork requirements for child care providers.
  • Establishing a community needs assessment that would—to the greatest extent possible—be used to determine how state or tribe resources would be used.

You can read more about the Child Care Supply Improvement Act here.