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DEED’s child care funding delivers for working families, employers and communities across Minnesota

2/12/2024 11:41:10 AM

Office of Child Care Community Partnerships Director Tammy Wickstrom

DEED just announced record funding to expand working families' access to affordable, quality child care in communities across the state: two rounds of Child Care Economic Development grants totaling nearly $12.5 million will be issued this year. But did you know that since 2017, DEED has issued more than $6.5 million in Child Care Economic Development grants to 56 local governments and non-profit organizations throughout Minnesota, helping create up to 9,300 child care slots?

Here are a few examples of how DEED funding has helped increase access to quality, affordable child care across Minnesota.

Adding 263 needed child care slots in West Central Minnesota

Forgivable loans and other assistance funded in part by a DEED Child Care Economic Development grant helped eight new in-home child care providers start their business, 26 in-home family child care providers remain in/expand their business and seven child care centers increase the number of children served in Kandiyohi County. The assistance helped to create an estimated 263 child care slots in the area.

DEED provided a $200,000 grant to the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission in 2022 to help address a child care shortage of 935 slots in the area. Kandiyohi County pitched in $150,000, the city of Willmar contributed $100,000, Southwest Initiative Foundation provided $100,000, First Children's Finance another $30,000 and other municipalities throughout the county also joined the effort, resulting in approximately $600,000, plus providers/centers themselves are investing an additional $500,000 to support the maintenance and expansion of child care availability in the area. Local child care providers received assistance through forgivable loans and fee reimbursements, a technology enhancement program, a mentorship program, an employee assistance program, transportation support and training and language accommodation.

A community building hosts child care providers in Southeast Minnesota

Two new child care providers started serving families in Northfield last summer in the city-owned Northfield Community Resource Center. Both child care businesses were able to get off the ground thanks to a unique partnership between Three Rivers Community Action, Healthy Community Initiative and the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, which received a $200,000 Child Care Economic Development grant in 2022.

The grants helped the partners open family child care in a non-residential space in Northfield. Little Stinkers and Thinkers Child Care LLC and Maddi's Makoons (Makoons means Bear Cub in Ojibwe) received a rent subsidy to operate in the space.

Providing a subsidized space for providers to operate removes a barrier to more providers offering child care services. Barriers may include would-be providers who rent their home, or do not have the necessary licensing requirements, such as fencing at their home. The two child care providers currently offer 20 child care slots, helping to address the 100-slot child care shortage in the Northfield region.

Turning an empty building into an innovative child care center in Southwest Minnesota

Child Care Economic Development funds helped the city of Hills in the southwest corner of Minnesota turn an empty building into a renovated space for three independent providers to provide child care services, opening in early 2024.

DEED provided a $120,000 Child Care Economic Development grant to the City of Hills in 2023,helping the city transform the unused building into a space where local child care providers only need to pay for utilities. This reduces their overhead costs, similar to what was done in Northfield, and eliminates the need for providers to offer services in their own homes to make ends meet. Eventually, when the providers are full to capacity, this unique project will provide a minimum of 30 additional child care slots in the community, which is short roughly 300 child care slots.

Helping address a child care desert in Northeast Minnesota

Floodwood, a town, about 40 miles west of Duluth, had only two licensed family child care providers in early 2022, down from five home-based child care businesses prior to the pandemic. When one of the two decided to close, community members rallied to help start a new child care center.

One of the community leaders reached out to the Northland Foundation for help. A DEED Child Care Economic Development grant enabled the Foundation to provide $40,000 to help build the new Polar Cubs Childcare Center, which also received $225,000 in federal American Rescue Plan funding from St. Louis County, a $25,000 grant from the United Way of Northeast Minnesota and financial support from community fundraising efforts.

When operating at full capacity, Polar Cubs will provide 69 much-needed child care slots. Floodwood community leaders believe the new center will fulfill current demand for child care in this small rural community of just over 500 residents. Construction is slated to begin this spring and Polar Cubs Childcare Center is taking pre-enrollments from parents and guardians.

Providing start-up costs to family child care providers in Northwest Minnesota

A new family moved to the Crookston area and wanted to start a family child care service. The home they purchased needed some repairs, including flooring upgrades and a water heater to meet licensing standards. Northwest Minnesota Initiative Fund used $3,000 from a DEED Child Care Economic Development grant and added $2,000 of its own Child Care Program budget to provide $5,000 to address these needed repairs.

The work has been completed and the family child care provider is now fully licensed for 12 children. Supporting small projects like these has helped Northwest Minnesota Initiative Foundation build capacity around their rural region.

Find out more about Child Care Economic Development Grants and the open Request for Proposals for grant funding, as well as all the work overseen by DEED's new Office of Child Care Community Partnerships on DEED's website.

Read the press release about DEED's largest-ever round of child care grants and DEED's new Office of Child Care Community Partnerships announced last month.


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