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School closures lead to child care questions

Those with child care questions can call the State Information Hotline between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Metro number: 651-297-1304, Greater Minnesota: 1-800-657-3504.

ST PAUL, Minnesota — On Sunday, Governor Tim Walz announced that schools would be closed to students from Wednesday, March 18 through Friday, March 27. Some schools are choosing to close earlier.

After the announcement, the State Information Hotline opened inside the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC). Sunday afternoon, about 10 people with the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Minnesota Department of Education were answering questions related to education and child care. 

"We are providing coverage and... staff covering the hotline center right now so that we can be able to provide responses to questions that the community, families and providers might have," said Cindi Yang, director of the Child Care Services Division at DHS. 

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The State Information Hotline is open between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

Metro number: 651-297-1304
Greater Minnesota: 1-800-657-3504

Yang said parents can also call and ask questions about provider availability through Child Care Aware of Minnesota at 1-888-291-9811 (8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.) or visit parentaware.org. 

Yang said they are looking into how they can provide financial relief for families who now need child care. 

"For those who are receiving state subsidy assistance already, those will continue. We're also looking at what state and federal resources are available so that we can be able to offer financial relief for families to continue working through this process," Yang said.  

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During Sunday's press conference, state leaders urged child care centers to stay open as school closures will lead to more parents in need of child care services. 

"We are asking for providers to still be in operation because we want to make sure that families who need to continue working have the child care services that they need to be able to get to work," Yang said. 

Yang said DHS is working with the governor's office and their state agency partners to get child care providers the support they need. 

"For the providers, we know that is already a small industry. So we want to make sure to be able to provide technical assistance, financial relief, and all of the support services that we're able to keep them in operation," Yang said. 

Yang said the governor's executive order means they will be able to waive some of the requirements in place to help get more kids into child care during this time. 

"We're looking to create new spaces to be able to provide child care and then also providing slots and how we can do that in a creative way so that it can really serve the community and the workforce needs right now," Yang said. 

New Horizon Academy CEO Chad Dunkley said they have already received hundreds of inquiries from parents. Dunkley said they want to accommodate where they can. They are seeing if they can license some of their "muscle rooms" (an indoor gym space) that would allow more kids in during this time. Dunkley suggests parents reach out to individual locations to find out availability. 

A spokesperson for the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities said they were working on a plan and would have more information available on Monday. 

Meanwhile, the governor's executive order requires schools to provide care for elementary-aged children of health care professionals, first responders and other emergency workers during previously planned school days. 

More information for child care providers can be found, here. 

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The state of Minnesota has set up a hotline for general questions about coronavirus at 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903, available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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