ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – Minnesota ranks among the least affordable states for child care, according to a new national study, and those high prices coupled with the recession have resulted in more parents receiving state subsidies for the service.
The study by the National Association of Child Care Resources and Referral Agencies found that Minnesota ranks as the fifth least affordable state for prekindergarten child care, after New York, Montana, Massachusetts and Wisconsin.
And the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that’s after the annual cost of infant care in the state dropped 5 percent to $12,900 and the cost for a preschooler fell 4 percent to $9,900.
The study included only the state’s 1,500 center-based providers and didn’t include the more than 11,000 in-house care providers, which are often less expensive.
Families earning less than half of the state’s median income are eligible for child care assistance from the Department of Human Service. That includes parents like Nyapai Kek of St. Paul, a single mother of three.
Kek, whose youngest child is 5 months old, said she doesn’t know how she would manage without the assistance. She recently found a job, but while she was unemployed and on bed rest during her pregnancy, it was helpful to be able to have her older children in day care.
The number of Minnesota children receiving public assistance for child care has increased 13 percent since 2006, according to the state Department of Human Services. On average, families receive about $900 per month. Last year, the families of about 33,700 children in Minnesota on average received monthly subsidies.
Minnesota is among the most expensive for child care partly because the industry is highly regulated by the state, said Ann McCully, executive director of Minnesota Child Care. For example, Minnesota requires a lower ratio of staff to children than other states.
Without assistance, parents who feel they can’t afford child care are stuck making a hard choice between quality and cost, McCully said. Some might be able to negotiate for cheaper rates or shorter hours with care providers, but others might turn to unlicensed care.
“That’s not necessarily bad,” she said. “You might want your child to stay with a grandparent or sister. But it’s when it’s not a true choice that we worry.”
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