Across the Northland, six child care centers have received a total of $90,000 in grant money from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
Northland Foundation, a publicly supported foundation that serves St. Louis, Carlton, Lake, Cook, Itasca, Koochiching and Aitkin counties, applied for the funding that has been awarded to five start-ups nearing opening and one child care center in need of an expansion.
Nearly 4,500 child care spots are needed across the seven-county region in order to keep up with demand, according to a 2018 study Northland Foundation was a part of. Nearly 2,600 of those spots are needed in St. Louis County.
While those numbers are always moving as child care facilities have opened and closed since 2018, Northland Foundation President Tony Sertich said the significant need for additional child care spots hasn't changed.
"The numbers may be a little different here and there, but the overall theme and trends continue to be the same," Sertich said. "We know we're making a dent, but there's still a ways to go."
The state Legislature has made the Child Care Economic Development Grant available to child care centers the past three years, which Sertich said Northland Foundation is grateful for.
"But no one grant or no one organization is going to solve this," Sertich said. "It's going to take work from the public, private and non-profit sector to continue to step forward and make these critical investments, not just for our kids, but for our economy."
Support from the public sector is critical in addressing the child care shortage because the model for running a child care service is expensive for both the families and business owners, Sertich said. Support in the form of grant money helps alleviate those barriers.
The grant money can be used for staff training, facility modifications, child care equipment or assistance with licensing and other regulatory requirements.
Child care grant money recipients are:
- Hope for Kids Child Care Center start-up in Duluth; 301 West St. Marie Street to offer spots for 8 infants, 28 toddlers and 30 preschoolers.
New Hope For Families start-up in Duluth; 1028 E. Eighth St.; to offer spots for eight infants, 14 toddlers and 20 preschoolers.
Brandie's Little Bear Learning Center start-up in Eveleth; 1250 Industrial Park Drive; to offer spots for 142 children between the ages of 6 weeks old and 12 years old.
City of Cohasset Childcare and Community Center start-up.
Littlefork Child Care Pod Model Project start-up.
Itasca County YMCA WeeFolksgarten Child Care Center in Grand Rapids for expansion.