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'I am this close to closing my doors': Lawmakers seek solutions in child care shortage

Minnesota Capitol. Forum News Service

ST. PAUL - Minnesota lawmakers weighed some of the first proposals aimed at addressing the shortage of child care providers in Minnesota's rural areas Wednesday, Feb. 13.

Lawmakers on the Senate Committee on Family Care and Aging advanced two bills that would set aside up $10 million in grants to help child care providers in Greater Minnesota expand and clarify training requirements for providers. And they heard testimony about other efforts to reduce some of the regulatory burdens forcing child care providers to shutter.

The hearing comes as the state grapples with a child care shortage that has made it tougher for some businesses to recruit workers to rural Minnesota.

“Increasingly, they have reported that their No. 1 issue or no. 2 issue is child care,” Dan Dorman, executive director of the Greater Minnesota Partnership, said. "It is a recruiting issue that needs to be addressed."

For family child care providers, Wednesday's discussion was personal.

“I have been doing this for 17 years," Julie Seydel, public policy director for the Minnesota Association of Child Care Professionals, said. "I don’t want to do anything else, and I am this close to closing my doors."

Seydel, who works as a family care provider, said smaller providers can't keep up with the regulatory frameworks in the state. And while proposals to give grants to Greater Minnesota child care providers might be well-intended, they would largely benefit child care centers or school-based child care programs, she said.

Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, brought another bill that was laid over and could be added to a larger committee bill set to come later. The proposal would put $3 million in grant funding toward getting more child care providers in underserved areas.

“This is not the regulatory relief bill some are looking for," Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, said, "but it will be paired with regulatory relief."

Nelson and other lawmakers said the bills were just the start of their effort to keep child care providers in business and bring new providers to Greater Minnesota.

Committee members also laid over a bill that would require a county child care licensor to contact the Department of Human Services if a dispute arose about a correction order.