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Advocates: Federal Plan Could Do Wonders for Housing, Child Care in MN

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Tuesday, November 16, 2021   

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. -- In Congress, initial votes are possible this week on the Biden administration's budget reconciliation bill. From child care to affordable housing, Minnesota's community action agencies say there's real hope about giving struggling families the tools for long-term success.

The proposal known as Build Back Better is separate from the recently approved infrastructure plan.

One area the reconciliation package is poised to address is affordable housing.

Isaac Meyer, housing development director for KOOTASCA Community Action in northern Minnesota, said a lack of housing development and skyrocketing rents creates a vicious cycle for low-income families. On top of that, there is only so much current aid to go around.

"For our folks doing the crisis housing and homelessness services, we're able to serve as many people as we have funding, but no more," Meyer explained. "And that means so many families go simply unserved."

The plan includes nearly $25 billion for Housing Choice Vouchers.

Meyer argued it will empower more families to find something to meet their needs. As for child care, agencies say $100 billion for affordable care for kids ages birth to five is another investment which will have a long-term positive effect. Republicans and some Senate Democrats still raise concerns about the size of the bill, tying it to inflation.

But supporters said the changes address roadblocks holding many families back.

Maria Steen, child care aware manager for the Lakes and Prairies Community Action Partnership in the northwestern region, said another plan to cap families' child-care costs at no more than 7% of their income would be transformational.

"I know a lot of families that make choices about their family size, like family planning, because they can't afford child care," Steen observed.

She noted when families often spend roughly 25% of their income on child care, it can keep them out of the workforce. A cap would eliminate a difficult decision for many households.

Annie Shaprio, advocacy director for the Minnesota Community Action Partnership, said Build Back Better represents a cross-section of needs and services that could play a tremendous role in shaping a family's future. And because it is multi-year funding, there is opportunity for real change.

"The ability to actually implement programs that have longer tails, that can be ramped up," Shaprio urged. "Programs on the ground have time to establish, to start to run, to see the benefit, is the way that people and families will actually experience the impact."

Disclosure: Minnesota Community Action Association Resource Fund contributes to our fund for reporting on Early Childhood Education, Health Issues, Housing/Homelessness, Poverty Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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