Childcare funding

Young children get creative while attending daycare.

(The Center Square) – Iowa spent $1.6 million more in American Rescue Plan Act funding for Child Care Business Incentive grants than originally intended.

Iowa Workforce Development Public Information Officer Jesse Dougherty said in an emailed statement to The Center Square that, originally, $25 million of ARPA money was slated to support the Child Care Business Incentive grant program. Another $20 million would go to infrastructure, and $5 million would be dedicated to creating more slots.

“However, after reviewing the applications, the final awarded amount for the infrastructure projects was increased to $25.9 million to account for the quality of the projects that applied and the workforce needs described in their applications,” he said.

The state has reopened a revised slot opportunity with about $4.3 million as well, Dougherty said. Projects that increase licensed or operational child care slots, add slots to meet time and day requirements of employees or fill currently licensed, unfilled, slots can receive grants. Applications are due by 11:59 a.m. Oct. 17.

Gov. Kim Reynolds’ office said in a news release Tuesday that the $25.9 million will help fund 19 infrastructure projects. The state will spend $603,433 on four projects that are supposed to help create new child care slots.

The funding will involve 67 employers. Some projects are in larger cities, like West Des Moines, Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Sioux City. Others are in small towns, like St. Ansgar and West Bend.

The largest grant was $3 million for a Dubuque-area partnership between Cottingham & Butler and New Horizon Academy to build a child care facility for the community and Cottingham & Butler employees. The partnership estimated the project would produce 182 new slots for children ages 6 weeks through fourth grade.

The 23 project applications added up to 1,786 new child care slots, based on applicants’ estimates, the awards sheet said. The number of slots could change upon project completion, the sheet said.

“Iowa businesses know that access to quality child care is a major factor in employees’ ability to work,” Reynolds said. “These awards will support and incentivize employer investment in child care resources on site or through community partnerships and strengthen our efforts to provide high quality child care throughout the state of Iowa.” 

Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend said the awards help employers attract and retain employees.

“Our focus moving forward must remain on addressing these specific types of barriers to provide options for families and create an environment where the local workforce can thrive,” Townsend said.

Iowa Department of Health and Human Services Director Kelly Garcia said that as a working mom herself who has a child in child care she sees the advantage children who engage in early learning have and understands the need for more access to child care in Iowa.

Iowa has spent about $75.6 million to create 10,700 child care slots through 191 grant-funded projects, the release said.