Shutdown impacts child care needs

Published 8:55 am Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Column: Bob Haas, My Point of View

I was hopeful that by the time you read this, the state shutdown would already be a memory. I’ve recently been attending meetings of the county commissioners and the Human Services Board and have found the last couple to be very interesting as they dealt a great deal with the state government shutdown. I first want to commend our commissioners and county administrator for their hard work and diligence in facing issues of the shutdown sooner rather than later.

Bos Haas

Whether we want to admit it or not, government is intertwined in all of our lives in some way. Government here in Freeborn County is certainly affected by this shutdown. I could talk about many areas today but would like to center on one crucial program.

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The state has a child care assistance program that helps financially eligible families pay day care expenses so they can afford to be employed and not have to shell out the majority of their paycheck in child care costs. Currently there are 121 families in Freeborn County taking advantage of this program, in addition to the public assistance child care program. On July 1, this program was stopped because of the state shutdown. This not only affected these families, it also affected the 60-some individuals and centers providing the care.

Families are now faced with paying large increases in child care costs. Providers also could make a decision to take care of children for free. Another option might be for the parent to stay home and not go to work. Freeborn County might even want to consider starting their own child care assistance program. Any of these options will be a hardship on some segment of our population.

Families have not had time to even think about working these extra payments into their budgets, so which bills do they discontinue paying? Child care providers are being paid very little for their service already and probably can’t afford to watch children for free. This option may drive many providers out of business, and we need more, not fewer providers. If parents stay home, they lose income or may be fired for not having the ability to show up for work. This option could drive many hard-working people onto our public assistance roles, greatly increasing our costs for that program. If the county picks up the thousands of dollars in costs, it will affect each and everyone of us who pays taxes.

We often hear the television news reports about construction projects being delayed and state parks being shutdown. We seldom hear about many of the personal hardships being played out each day throughout our county and state with many services that affect real people we know are suffering through a state shutdown.

I have read many times that all of our past Republican governors, with the exception of Mr. Tim Pawlenty, have come out against a “no new taxes/cuts only” approach to our budget shortages. I’ve also read that our nonpartisan State Economist Tom Stinson has said that cutting spending does more damage than raising taxes on upper income wage earners.

In my view, we cannot continue to cut our way out of our budget problems. The stakes are too high and the burden too great to so many of our citizens. Our state Republican leaders can disagree with our governor but it is time for them to meet Gov. Mark Dayton halfway and add some revenue to our state budget to move us through this crisis and move ahead with the task of growing our economy.

Bob Haas is a member of the Freeborn County DFL Party.