NEW?ULM - Jennifer Bruns, mother of 18-month-old Hailey, is in a dilemma because of the state government shutdown that starts today.
She works at Oak Hills Living Center in New Ulm, and her husband works for Wakefield Pork, Inc. in Gaylord. They each earn around $1,000 a month. Almost all of her husband's check pays go for the family's health insurance, so her check is responsible for the family's living expenses.
They are able to live reasonably on their budget, but the loss of their child care assistance because of the shutdown may hurt their finances.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Jennifer Bruns of New Ulm plays with her 18-month- old daughter Hailey. With the shutdown that could start today, she will be losing her day care assistance, which is vital to her family’s finances.
Because they both work more than 10 hours a day, Hailey must be in day care for most of the day. Their daughter attends Little Rascals Daycare in New Ulm, which cost $480 a month for full-time day care. Their day care assistance covers $320 of the cost. Starting today, the payments could stop.
Jennifer Bruns said she can't afford full price day care because it constitutes nearly half of her paycheck.
"I considered not working because it's the same difference but a little less once we pay [for day care]. I can't though. I need to keep my job," said Bruns.
Day care facts
- 26,000 Minnessota families losing day care subsidies in shutdown
- 133 Brown County families are affected
- State can't guarantee it will reimburse any child care expenses made during the shutdown
Bruns is currently working towards her nursing degree and must work a minimum of 20 hours at the nursing home to keep a scholarship. She is also concerned she would lose her spot at Little Rascals to other families that are on the waiting list. She said losing such a good day care would ultimately cost her even more down the road.
She also cannot ask family members to watch her daughter, because they are facing a similar situation.
"My mother-in-law has a nine-year-old and an 11-year-old with assistance, and she doesn't know what she's going to do either," said Bruns.
Bruns said that because of her situation, she and her husband will have to keep their daughter in day care at a financial loss.
"We'll just have to find a way. We may have to do things like put off paying bills. But, we can only do that for a month at most. Past that, we be in a really difficult situation," said Bruns, "We're going to lose money every day [there is a shutdown.]"
Unfortunately, Bruns' situation is not unique. Statewide, approximately 26,000 Minnesota families are losing their child care subsidies for the duration of the shutdown. In Brown County, 133 families are losing assistance.
The majority of people on child care assistance are low income or single parent families, who depend on assistance to have child care at all. Without the assistance, many face an impossible choice between continuing to work and taking care of their children.
Pauline Holz, Child Care Assistance and Licensing employee for Brown County Family Services, said the problem is compounded because the state can't guarantee it will reimburse any child care expenses made during the shutdown. She said this prevents generous child care facilities from being able to credit the families for the missing funds, with the assumption of being retroactively paid later.
"Instead, they are forced to demand the whole payment upfront," said Holz, "Day care costs are high. Most families simply can't afford that. They rely on the assistance to stay in the workforce and keep their children safe."
Little Rascals Daycare, where Bruns' daughter attends, has one of the highest percentages of families on day care assistance in Brown County. Roughly 30 families, or 46 percent of Little Rascal families, are on assistance.
Full-time care costs $480 a month and part-time costs $320 a month. The price is well above what many families can afford.
Little Rascals co-owner Crystal Frederickson said they are constantly talking with assistance families to try to find a way to help them stay.
"A lot of our families are unbelievably stressed out," said Frederickson, "They can't afford to pay full for day care, but if they don't, they can't go to work."
She said the shutdown will be equally hard on the children. She said that all the children love coming to Little Rascals to play with their friends. Children could end up feeling confused and hurt if their parents can't take them to day care.
"They're little, so they don't understand the shutdown or why they can't go," said Frederickson, "It's so heartbreaking, because they might get mad at the parents and not understand how hard it is for them too."
Frederickson also said the loss of the assistance families will also hurt Little Rascals financially. She said they think the center can weather the shutdown, but are concerned about cutting one employee to do so.
"We're looking for anything we can do to not have to do that. We may even hire a person we cut back on as a part-time custodian, so they have something," said Frederickson, "I wish the people in the Cities would just put aside their politics and get something figured out soon."
Bruns echoed that sentiment.
"It's very frustrating because it's something that's needed. It's not a luxury," said Bruns, "They need to just get it done."
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)