By Jennifer Kotila – West Central Tribune https://www.wctrib.com/news/local/kandiyohi-county-and-city-of-willmar-economic-development-commission-launches-child-care-development-program
KANDIYOHI COUNTY — The Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission has launched the Child Care Economic Development Program, of which one goal is to offer forgivable loans to childcare providers.
“We are very excited that these funds are now available for current child care providers, those interested in becoming providers, and for individuals or businesses that would like to create a site to host a child care facility,” said EDC Business Development Manager Sarah Swedburg.
The EDC was awarded a $200,000 grant in November of 2022 from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. The city of Willmar and Kandiyohi County are both contributing matching funds, and other cities and townships in the county have been invited to financially support the grant as well.
“Sarah Swedburg”When all is said and done, there is about $600,000 to support the growth and retention of child care in the county,” Swedburg said. “The program is being administered by the EDC, but organized with a strong group of partners from the Mid-Minnesota Development Commission, United Community Action Partnership, and Kandiyohi County, to name a few. These partners will be hosting a childcare and foster care provider recruitment event later in the summer.”
As reported by the West Central Tribune in December 2022, a report from the nonprofit First Children’s Finance in June 2021 showed that there was a need for 651 additional childcare slots in Kandiyohi County. The 2022 report, issued in October, showed the number of childcare slots needed had risen to 935 — a 44.3% increase in demand.
There were 84 family childcare providers in Kandiyohi County in 2021, and that dropped to 78 in 2022. The EDC found that a large percentage of the providers in the county are those who have been providing childcare for fewer than five years or those who have been providing childcare for more than 20 years.
It was noted by EDC Marketing and Communications Specialist Kelsey Olson that those who have been providing child care for fewer than five years are typically doing it while their own children are young, and then they stop providing child care once their children start school. Those who have been providing childcare for more than 20 years are looking to retire.
The grant provides support opportunities in six different areas, which include forgivable loans and fee reimbursements, a mentorship program, an employee assistance program, transportation support, training, and language accommodation.
Applications are currently being accepted for forgivable loans, transportation, technical support, and language accommodation.
“We suspect the highest demand for support will be in the forgivable loan category,” Swedburg said.
Forgivable loans are available in amounts of up to $12,500 for in-home providers. Child care centers can receive forgivable loans up to $40,000, including those centers looking to build or remodel a child care facility.
Funding can be used for construction costs, updates, and program materials — for example, updating playground equipment, purchasing new doors, installing egress windows, or purchasing new supplies.
“The other grant areas are designed to support providers in other areas of their businesses, from assisting with transportation to mental health services. We hope these opportunities will help providers feel as supported as they are appreciated,” Swedburg explained. Full details about the other grant areas and how they can be accessed can be found on the EDC website at www.kandiyohi.com or by contacting the EDC at [email protected] or 320-235-7370 .