New 300 million dollar child care grant program means less money for some in-home care providers

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(ABC 6 News) – As things go back to normal and people go back to work essential workers are wondering where to send their kids for daycare. The state started a new grant program focused on increasing child care wages to try and solve this issue. However, some smaller, in-home child care workers say it might not be enough.

"That whole pandemic time was just so unsettling. It’s gonna take a long time for people to regroup and find a way to come back to this profession," said Jackie Harrington, owner and sole employee at First Five Years Family Child Care.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced that applications are now open for child care providers to apply for a new round of grants. This time the money comes from the federal government’s American Rescue Plan.

"There’s some concerns about how that funding is being equitably distributed," Harrington said.

This new funding is geared towards employee pay – something that’s great for child care centers who have multiple employees. Family child care, however, doesn’t have that same experience.

"Centers are doing great. They’re getting great funding and we’re happy for them but family child care is being offered one-third of what we were seeing in the past," Harrington said.

Jayk Seifert runs an in-home childcare program called Jayk’s Jungle. He said he’s used to getting around $1,200 a month from grant programs.

"I couldn’t have done what I’m doing now without the support of the state and the government and my families, of course. They’ve been the best," Seifert said.

However with this new grant program, the Minnesota Department of Human Services says he can expect to see about $430 a month.

"These new funds are really designed to help boost pay and help benefits specifically designed to child care workers," said Tikki Brown, the assistant commissioner of Children and Family Services at the Department of Human Services.

The Department says that they’re following state guidance that focuses on increasing the wages of individual full-time employees.

"The benefits are based on FTE’s and so each month the number of FTE’s that apply for these funds will receive $430," Brown said.

While Walz’s new grant program offers more money to providers than previous grant cycles, in-home child care has reduced grant funding. In-home providers say they depended on that funding.

"Those funds did allow for me to give families financial grace. I could keep those families and tie them over," Harrington said.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services says it’s currently working on getting money available for smaller child care providers to access for emergency purposes. The state says they’ll have more information on that in the coming months.