Child care relief funding proposal

Mike Milbrandt

Last week, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan announced a $56.6 million Coronavirus Relief Funds proposal. The proposal, which has yet to be approved by the State Legislature, would provide grants to family child care providers who have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Montevideo Community and Economic Development Specialist Alek Schulz said: “It’s in the works. Once funding is approved, the Minnesota Department of Human Services and the Children’s Cabinet will be providing information on how to apply for those funds.”

According to Schulz, there are 19 licensed child care providers in Montevideo who could potentially benefit from the grants. “Our child care providers take care of about 236 kids, and they are all full,” he said.

A study commissioned by the City of Montevideo in 2017 looked at the community’s day care situation and found that the city needed approximately 136 more slots than what was available. “Given our current predicament, it is my opinion that the need has increased,” said Schulz.

There is no doubt that relief is needed for day cares throughout the state. Once the grants are approved by the legislature, eligible providers will receive a grant paid out over three months to help address the cost of adhering to public health guidance during a time of decreased revenue caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Family providers will receive up to $1,200 per month, while licensed centers will receive up to $8,500 per month.

Prior to this latest round of grants, the state awarded grants to day care providers through the Peacetime Emergency Child Care Grants program. One local recipient of those funds was the Montevideo School District’s Thunder Hawk Care.

Trisha Lien, Thunder Hawk Care coordinator, said: “Part of our program qualified. We have one DHS licensed child care program and two DHS certified child care programs. Our licensed toddler’s program qualified for the Peacetime Emergency Child Care Grants funds. Our certified pre-school and school age programs, which are our two largest programs, were not eligible.”

Lien explained that, according to state requirements, certified centers that are not eligible to apply for a grant are school-based centers and Head Start programs. “This is because those programs may have access to other public funding,” she said.

In order to be eligible for receiving this latest round of funding, providers had to be open and caring for children as of June 15 and remain open for the duration of the three-month grant period.

The provider’s license must be in good standing, and the provider must be able to show revenue losses or increased costs due to COVID-19. Also, the provider must provide financial incentives for working staff.

Schulz is hopeful that local providers will be able to access the Coronavirus Relief Fund. “The need is there,” he said. “Our child care providers provide an invaluable service to our community. We need them, and they need help