MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan have announced a plan to distribute tens of millions of dollars to child care providers.

On Tuesday, both Walz and Flanagan visited separate child care centers in the state — St. Paul and Rochester respectively — to announce the proposal.

“Child care providers have stepped up to serve emergency workers and ensure families across Minnesota have a safe and reliable place to send their children,” Walz said. “We will continue to support the critical work they do to educate our next generation, support families, and strengthen our economy.”

The proposal, a $56.6 million Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) grant program, aims to help support the state’s child care providers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The grant program would be available to more than 6,000 home providers, and 1,100 center providers.

“Minnesota child care providers have gone above and beyond to support children and families during these unprecedented months,” Flanagan said. “To meet the great need, and despite great challenges, providers have stayed open, including 90% of family providers. Our response to COVID-19 could not have happened without their support. They care for our littlest Minnesotans, and we should support them in return.”

According to the governor’s office, family providers will receive up to $1,200 per month and licensed centers will receive up to $8,500 per month. It will be scaled based on the number of eligible applicants.

The proposal was submitted to the Legislative Advisory Commission for approval on July 1. Once approved, more information about how childcare providers can apply for grants will be provided.

The Minnesota Child Care Association says day cares are in crisis, operating at 40% to 50% capacity compared to pre-pandemic.

“I know they’re taking great precautions,” Tessa Fredman, from Dayton, said of her child care center.

Fredman and her husband have been paying hundreds in child care costs per week to save their spot while keeping their 1-year-old son home.

“It’s not the center,” she said. “It’s who we might see out in public or friends or family we could potentially spread it to.”

“I think it’s a personal choice,” Hennepin Healthcare pediatric infectious disease expert Dr. Stacene Maroushek said.

“I think some parents don’t have a choice,” Dr. Maroushek said. “For parents who do have a choice I think they need to be selective about the daycare — what kind of cleaning procedures and social distancing are in place.”

Minnesota Child Care Association president and New Horizon CEO Chad Dunkley says New Horizon is limiting classroom traffic, doing daily health screenings, and installing an ionizing heating and air system. They’re also temporarily halting family style lunches.

He fears daycares may close with continued low attendance.

“Gov. Walz proposed a $30 million emergency child care grant earlier in the year and we’ve used those funds,” Dunkley said. “We had a child care supply issue before this happened.”

Dr. Maroushek says most children recover, but can be asymptomatic, making it riskier to split daycare duties with a grandparent.

Fredman and her husband have no plans to return to the office right now and no daycare start date.

“When is right?” Fredman asked. “We don’t know.”

Dr. Maroushek said children with underlying health conditions or under the age of one are more at risk.

She also said if you’re considering a nanny, they would need to social distance outside of work to minimize your family’s exposure.

Kate Raddatz

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