My wife Mary and I are the proud parents of two-year old twins. Raising them is the most amazing thing we’ve ever had the opportunity to do - so every morning when I leave for work, it’s hard to say goodbye.

But you know what makes it a lot easier?

Knowing they’re going to grow and learn all day long, thanks to the excellent child care we have available.

Unfortunately, for many Minnesota families, excellent childcare (or any child care at all, for that matter) is simply not available.

The number of licensed family child care providers has decreased almost 30 percent in Minnesota since 2005. The problem is especially acute in Greater Minnesota. I hear about it every day when I speak with businesses and interest groups across the state. Families need two incomes to make ends meet, but without any child care available, they have to get by on one.

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This isn’t just about individual prosperity, either: Our growing talent shortage in Minnesota means we need to put more people to work if we’re going to meet the needs of our businesses and grow our economy. But if you can’t leave your child with someone you trust during the day, how can you go to work?

That’s why Gov. Tim Walz’s budget for One Minnesota takes a big focus on child care. One of the ways he's doing that is by putting forth a proposal to expand the Economic Development Child Care Grant program, which is run by the Department of Employment and Economic Development. Since 2017, this grant program has created more than 2,000 new child care slots and 380 new child care jobs across Minnesota.

The grants awarded by DEED help start businesses like the Mini Mos Child Care Center in Esko. Entrepreneur Courtney Greiner was able to start the business to facilitate child care for parents who work at Minnesota Power, Fond Du Lac, Lakewalk Surgery Center, St Lukes, Essentia, 149th Air Base, and many more in the area.

Thanks to DEED's grant and matching funds from the Northland Foundation, Greiner created 39 new child care slots and three new jobs with her center.

The governor is asking for $1 million to continue this grant program, which would leverage over $2 million in local matching funds. This would fund as many as 20 new child care projects across the state, which would serve an additional 2,400 children and their families throughout Minnesota.

Quality child care is vital to growing our workforce and increasing our economic prosperity in Minnesota. Programs like these give Minnesotans the ability to be active participants in the workforce, entrepreneurs the capital to create new child care businesses that serve their community, and employers the ability to draw much-needed workers to their businesses.

Simply put: when great child care is available, everyone wins. And that’s why we urge the Legislature to support this program.