Sen. Smith: Youngster care assist essential for nation’s COVID-19 restoration | Information, Sports activities, Jobs

MARSHALL – It’s no surprise to local residents that there was a shortage of childcare in the Greater Minnesota metropolitan area even before COVID-19. But the pandemic has put pressure on childcare workers and families that are already negatively impacting the state’s workforce and economy, Senator Tina Smith said Friday.

“Childcare, like housing and transport, is part of the basic economic infrastructure that we need in this country. Our economy will not work if families cannot find safe, affordable, quality childcare options. “ Said Smith.

In a virtual press conference on Friday afternoon, Smith called for support to stabilize the childcare workers in the short term and to make sustainable changes in the long term. Smith said the childcare relief funding is part of a recovery package that is currently under discussion by Congress.

“Our goal and plan was $ 50 billion to shore up the country’s childcare system during the pandemic.” Said Smith. “We secured $ 10 billion in the December COVID relief package. That included around $ 135 million for Minnesota. . . But we need $ 40 billion more, and that is what we are working on to be included in the COVID recovery package that we are currently working on and negotiating in Congress. “

Friday’s press conference came at a time when residents of the Marshall area were also discussing the need for more available and affordable childcare. Earlier this week, the Marshall School Board heard a suggestion to keep the Marshall Area Childcare Center open without working with huge losses every year.

“The COVID pandemic has marginalized childcare and put many providers at risk of going out of business.” Smith said Friday. “Even before the pandemic, families were challenged to find quality, affordable childcare, and COVID-19 made the situation much worse.”

Smith’s testimony was echoed by childcare workers and parents from the Winona area who spoke during Friday’s press conference.

“This is not a pandemic-related problem” said Christie Ransom, President and CEO of the Winona Chamber of Commerce. “It existed long before the pandemic, and it’s regional, nationwide, national. We are facing these things all over the country, but the pandemic has really exposed it. “

Rural areas are losing childcare workers “At the crisis level” Said Smith. “The Center for Rural Policy and Development just released numbers showing that Greater Minnesota has lost over 20,000 childcare places in the past 20 years.” Said Smith. Southern Minnesota had a 24% childcare shortage late last year, she said.

The loss of childcare opportunities not only affects childcare workers and families, it also affects the economy, Smith said.

Data released by the Minneapolis Federal Reserve showed that many parents with young children – especially mothers – are leaving the workforce to care for their children during the pandemic, Smith said. However, women returned to work less often than men.

“And according to the Minneapolis Federal Reserve, the labor force participation rate of mothers with young children fell a little more than 11% between September 2019 and November 2020.” She said.

Smith said U.S. lawmakers understood the need to stabilize the childcare industry under COVID-19 relief funding.

“The House package is $ 40 billion and we expect the Senate package to be the same.” Said Smith. “These are dollars that would flow to providers through the state and the Child Care Development Block Grant.” and used to pay costs like salaries and personal protective equipment, she said.

“Right now there is a big deal between the House of Representatives and the Senate on what we need to do.” Said Smith. She said the House would vote on the matter “very soon,” and the Senate would pick it up from there. “Our goal is to have this, the entire package done, by mid-March.”

Both Smith and members of the Winona Ward said they thought it would take more in the long run to bolster childcare options in the greater Minnesota area.

As Minnesota communities work on the economic recovery from COVID-19, they must meet childcare needs so their employees can get back to work, Ransom said.

“Things have to be cheaper so that people can reopen (childcare) centers and day care centers at home.” She said. “I think the amount of red tape they have to go through and the lack of support make it impossible or less favorable for people to take advantage of these opportunities. And then there remains the great lack of childcare that you see where we have all these children and no places to go. “

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