Judge restores child care assistance during gov't shutdown

Child care shutdown
Gretchen Raymer supervises the playground at Creative Kids Academy, where she is the director. Subsidies to child care facilities like this one were suspended when the government shut down on July 1, but a judge has now ruled that child care subsidies can resume.
MPR Photo/ Sasha Aslanian

Parents and child care providers are expressing relief at a judge's ruling Wednesday to restore funding for child care assistance programs in Minnesota.

The programs lost funding when the state government shut down July 1. That left thousands of families without the subsidies that helped them pay for child care. And it left providers scrambling to cope with a loss of revenue.

Child care assistance is funded by a mixture of federal and state funding. A June 29 ruling by Kathleen Gearin preserved one funding source, but the Department of Human Services said it was impossible to separate it out from the others.

Judge Gearin's ruling Wednesday ordered all three child care assistance programs should receive funding.

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"We are ecstatic," said Gretchen Raymer, director of the Creative Kids Academy in Lexington, Minn. "It was nap time at the center, and I had to go apologize to teachers if I woke the kids up because I was jumping up and down in the office."

Raymer plans to call families this afternoon to tell them the good news. She said 27 children had to stop coming to the day care because their parents lost child care assistance subsidies.

The shutdown has cost the center about $4,000, she said. The children on child care assistance accounted for nearly one-third of the total children who receive day care at Lexington center.

Eva Szabo, a mother who relies on the assistance, said she almost started crying when she heard the news. Szabo has two daughters, age 3 and 4, who had been attending Creative Kids Academy before the shutdown.

"I'm so happy about it," she said. "I told the girls and they started jumping up and down."

Lisa Scott also expressed relief. She runs a day care for 10 children out of her home in Moorhead. She said all of the parents receive child care subsidies. Scott has been providing day care to only two children since the shutdown. One of the parents mowed her lawn in exchange for day care.

Scott said she lost about $1,000 in the last two weeks. She's a single mom, and she worried that she could lose her home if the funding wasn't restored quickly.

"I was, for lack of a better term, freaking out," she said. "I am so relieved, it's not even funny."

Judge Gearin's ruling also clarified that funding should continue for grants that provide services for people who are homeless, including grants for homeless youth.

The ruling is available online.