Crookston is short 179 licensed slots, and within a 20-mile radius the estimated shortage is 316

    U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, and U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, an Alaska Republican, have introduced the Child Care Workforce and Facilities Act to address the national shortage of affordable, quality child care, especially in rural communities.

    While many families struggle to find access to available child care, states are continuing to experience a noticeable decline in the number of child care providers, Klobuchar’s office stated Monday, leading to the expansion of “child care deserts.”

    In the House of Representatives, a companion bill has been introduced by Rep. Collin Peterson, a Democrat representing Minnesota’s Seventh District, and Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Republican from Washington State.

    The shortage of licensed child care slots is perhaps the most pressing issue presently challenging City of Crookston and community leaders, with an estimated shortage in Crookston of 179 slots and, within a 20-mile radius of Crookston, 316 slots. Local child care stakeholders have been exploring possible options for more than a year, and are currently taking a serious look at the former Sisters of St. Joseph Marywood Residence a mile east of Crookston as a potential non-profit child care center licensed to care for as many as 80 to 100 infants and children.

Klobuchar, Peterson thoughts

    “Affordable, quality child care must be available to every family. Child care shortages across the country pose a moral and financial issue for communities when parents are forced to decide between working and staying at home with their children,” Klobuchar said as the Senate bill was introduced. “Our bipartisan Child Care Workforce and Facilities Act will help ensure that every family has good options available to them when planning for their careers and their children.”

     Peterson echoed his Minnesota congressional colleague as the House version of the bill was introduced.

    “The lack of access to affordable, quality child care in rural America hurts not only families but also employers,” he said. “Our rural communities face many challenges and this bipartisan bill takes steps to ensure that these communities have the same access to child care as the folks living in urban areas.”

Legislation’s parameters

     The Child Care Workforce and Facilities Act would:

    • Help to address the shortage of affordable child care and qualified child care professionals in Minnesota, particularly Greater Minnesota;

    • Provide competitive grants to states to support (1) the education, training, or retention of the child care workforce or (2) building, renovating, or expanding child care facilities in areas with child care shortages; and

    • Require applicants to address how their projects would (1) Increase the availability and affordability of quality child care, including during nontraditional hours, (2) Help workers obtain portable, stackable credentials to foster increased mobility and opportunities for advancement in child care careers, and (3) Enhance retention or compensation of quality child care professionals.

    "With more than half our nation's families living in a child care desert, we are facing a child care supply issue and the demand is too high and too costly to ignore. As a leading champion for young children, SCAN applauds Senators Klobuchar and Sullivan and Representatives Peterson and Herrera Beutler for their leadership on this issue,” said Mark Chriver, CEO of Save the Children Action Network (SCAN). “This legislation will ensure that more parents can enter or remain in the workforce while knowing their children are enrolled in the type of quality child care that lays a strong foundation for their future success.”