A shortage of child care spots is not a problem unique to Sleepy Eye.
A shortage of child care spots is not a problem unique to Sleepy Eye. In fact, it is an issue throughout Minnesota. Sleepy Eye’s EDA Coordinator, Kurk Kramer, said it has been on the agenda at the Economic Development Association of Minnesota conferences for the past five years. The availability of child care is definitely an economic development issue for towns and cities in Minnesota.
At a recent meeting on the topic of child care, with local business people, Kramer said, “The cogs on the economic development wheel are housing, child care, and workforce.”
Child care has become such an important issue that the Minnesota Legislature considers and approves requests for funding to help communities address it.
When Sleepy Eye City Council members attended the League of Minnesota Cities conference a few weeks ago, they received information on legislation the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities and Greater Minnesota Partnership were advocating for that aimed to train more providers and increase child care capacity in greater Minnesota.
The Minnesota Legislature passed a bill to provide $750,000 for the six Initiative Foundations to provide training and business development for childcare providers, and community planning to help communities develop plans for addressing their specific childcare concerns. CGMC had requested $3 million for this proposal, but that amount did not make it through the legislative process.
Sleepy Eye is part of the region served by the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation. According to Rae Jean Hansen, VP of Early Childhood for SMIF, the organization applied for $60,000 for the each of the next two fiscal years. She said the funding will be used to provide free, locally-based, training for both home-based and center-based start-up and existing child care providers. Hansen said the funding will also provide technical assistance—one on one or in groups—for start-up providers.
The Department of Employment and Economic Development was appropriated $750,000 for their grant program, to increase the supply of quality child care providers, to support economic development. At least 60% of the fund had to go to projects in greater Minnesota. The application date for these funds just passed on July 27.
CGMC and GMNP also requested $10 million in capital funding to support the expansion/development of childcare facilities in greater Minnesota. Because the legislature did not pass a bonding bill this session, this funding was not approved. The House Capital Investment Committee did include $10 million in its proposed bonding bill, but the Senate Capital Investment Committee did not take up a bonding bill this session. The organizations will be working to secure that funding next session.