Minnesota faces a child-care affordability crisis that demands immediate attention. This issue hits home for us, both as parents and policymakers.
Though one of us serves a suburban community in the metro area and the other serves the most rural district statewide, we're both parents of young children. Because child care is so expensive, we, like most Minnesota families, have juggled caring for our children while working, struggled to balance the cost of child care and housing, and made family planning decisions based on child-care costs. We know tens of thousands of parents across Minnesota are facing the same pressures.
While we are incredibly proud of the legislative accomplishments last session in partnership with the Walz administration, there is more work to do. Now is the time to get serious about the debilitating effect of child care's high cost on families statewide and at nearly every income level.
As parents and policymakers, we understand the importance of high-quality early care and learning across the state. Quality child-care programs help our children develop foundational skills — problem-solving, phonics, vocabulary, early math skills, social competence, persistence.
However, for middle-class families, the struggle is real. According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the average yearly cost of infant care in Minnesota is $16,087. This dwarfs the average annual college cost of $11,226. These enormous child-care bills arrive at a time of life when young parents haven't had many years to save money and are likely at the beginning of their careers, when earnings tend to be lower.
Infant care costs the average Minnesota family 21% of its household income. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), under both Presidents Donald Trump and Joe Biden, has said that families can't afford to pay more than 7% of their household income for child care.
In other words, the median Minnesota family with just one infant in care is paying three times more than is affordable. Families with multiple young children and/or lower incomes face an even more daunting financial challenge.
This affordability crisis leaves families facing terrible options: pay the crushing child-care bills, which puts strain on their ability to pay for other pressing needs; or stay home, even if they would prefer to work, and lose the ability to financially support their family and expand their future earning potential. When parents are unable to work, it also aggravates Minnesota's labor shortage.
Minnesota leaders should reach for the goal that no family pays more than the federal 7% affordability standard. We propose the use of a sliding scale to provide variable assistance, so families from low to middle income would receive the support they need to reach our affordability goals.
How much would this proposal save your family? You can type www.MyChildcareSavingsMN.com into your web browser and get an estimate in seconds. As that calculator shows, achieving this 7% affordability goal will obviously be a huge boost to Minnesota families.
Just as importantly, it will, according to the Economic Policy Institute, bring $3.7 billion in new economic activity to our state's economy, which will serve all Minnesotans for generations to come.
The time is now to start the hard work of moving toward making quality child care affordable for all Minnesotans.
Grant Hauschild, DFL-Hermantown, is a member of the Minnesota Senate. Carlie Kotyza-Witthuhn, DFL-Eden Prairie, is a member of the Minnesota House.