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YMCA receives child care grant to support parents returning to the workforce

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development awarded grants totaling $2,425,000 to 14 organizations representing communities throughout Minnesota to increase the supply of quality child care providers in order to support regional economic development.

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The Brainerd Family YMCA is at South Sixth and Oak streets and promotes "youth development, healthy living and social responsibility." Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch

The Brainerd Family YMCA was awarded a state grant that will help the nonprofit purchase property to create a new child care center.

The YMCA received $140,000 from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development to increase the number of quality child care providers across the state.

RELATED: Minnesota city struggles to fix child-care crisis

“It is one part of a funding mix we hope to use to both purchase and renovate the property at 703 Oak St. to make it a new child care center,” said Shane Riffle, CEO of the Brainerd Family YMCA.

The property is kitty-corner to the Brainerd Family YMCA, and a for sale sign stands outside the Halvorson-Johnson Funeral Home building on the lot.

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The Halvorson-Johnson Funeral Home building sits on the property for sale at 703 Oak St. in Brainerd. Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch

RELATED: Brainerd Family YMCA announces capital campaign to replace facilities

“Our goal over the next year, year-and-a-half — once it's been renovated — is to add between 74 to 85 infant and toddler spots,” Riffle said of the property.

The state awarded grants totaling $2,425,000 to 14 organizations throughout Minnesota to increase the amount of child care providers in order to support regional economic development.

Along with affordable housing, having child care available is key to bringing people back to the workforce. In Crow Wing County alone, 30-35 in-home day care businesses closed during the pandemic.

“We know that before the pandemic there was a shortage of about 1,100 to 1,200 spots just within Crow Wing County,” Riffle said of a study by the Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corp., the Initiative Foundation and First Children's Finance.

According to a Harvard Business Review survey, almost two-thirds of parents have had trouble finding child care during the coronavirus pandemic.

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RELATED: Little Falls school district offers child care for health care workers, law enforcement

“Not just having the opportunity for child care, but quality and affordable child care is what's important,” Riffle said Wednesday, Dec. 15.

The Brainerd Family YMCA was voted best child care facility in Brainerd Dispatch’s annual “Best of the Brainerd Lakes” contest.


"There's a workforce shortage so we need people to re-enter the workforce. And that means that a lot of folks are in need of quality and affordable child care."

— Shane Riffle


“Not just having the opportunity for child care, but quality and affordable child care is what's important,” Riffle said Wednesday, Dec. 15.

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Shane Riffle is the CEO of the Brainerd Family YMCA. Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch

The DEED grants authorize $5 million over the next two fiscal years to local communities to increase quality child care providers.

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“There's a workforce shortage so we need people to re-enter the workforce. And that means that a lot of folks are in need of quality and affordable child care,” Riffle said.

RELATED: Klobuchar, Smith, colleagues advocate child care protections amid crisis

The grants announced Wednesday will add 2,300 new child care slots, with the majority of funding going to Greater Minnesota, according to the DEED news release.

The communities receiving the DEED grants will use a variety of approaches, ranging from partnering with local employers to build new child care facilities to training and assistance with licensing, according to state officials.

"Access to quality child care is a crisis in Minnesota that is holding our workforce back," DEED Commissioner Steve Grove stated in the news release.

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Commissioner Steve Grove, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. Contributed

RELATED: Brainerd YMCA offers ‘emergency daycare’ following coronavirus outbreak

Priority in awarding the grants was given to communities with a “documented shortage” of child care providers in their proposed project area.

“There was a need before the pandemic — and an even greater need now — for child care providers as family care providers have shut down, and centers have scaled back classrooms and what they're offering,” Riffle said.

Priority in awarding the grants was given to communities with a “documented shortage” of child care providers in their proposed project area.

“There was a need before the pandemic — and an even greater need now — for child care providers as family care providers have shut down, and centers have scaled back classrooms and what they're offering,” Riffle said.

RELATED: Cash bonuses and free lunches: No end in sight to labor shortage

The definition of documented shortages may include disparities in access to affordable quality child care among targeted groups including rural communities; low-income communities; Black, Indigenous and people of color; persons with disabilities; veterans; and women.

“I believe that the state governments and local businesses really understand that and are beginning to work together to provide opportunities and funding for qualified centers and child care providers to either start something new or expand what they're already offering,” he said.

Riffle said the YMCA worked closely with the leadership of the Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corp. to write the child care grant proposal.


"Access to quality child care is a crisis in Minnesota that is holding our workforce back."

— Steve Grove


“I believe that they were instrumental in writing a grant that was ultimately accepted and is helping us receive the $140,000,” Riffle said.

The DEED grants are part of an overall $8 million package of funding to assist communities to address their child care shortages, including $3 million directed toward the six Minnesota Initiative Foundations covering Greater Minnesota to assist communities and providers.

"These grants, the largest we’ve ever issued, will make a difference for hundreds of families across our state at a critical moment in Minnesota’s economic growth," Grove stated.

Child care grant recipients

  • CLUES, Minneapolis — $240,000.

  • Northland Foundation, Duluth — $240,000.

  • Prairie Pines Childcare Center, Fosston — $240,000.

  • Northwest Minnesota Foundation, Bemidji — $224,000.

  • Agape Child Development Center, Minneapolis — $210,000.

  • City of Warren, Warren — $210,000.

  • Wildflower Foundation, Minneapolis — $210,000.

  • Little Lakers Child Care Center, Lake Crystal — $150,000.

  • Morris Health Services, Morris — $150,000.

  • Greater Bemidji Inc, Bemidji — $140,000.

  • Brainerd Family YMCA, Brainerd — $140,000.

  • West Central Initiative, Fergus Falls — $100,000.

  • WomenVenture, Minneapolis — $96,000.

  • Nobles County Community Service Agency, Worthington — $75,000.

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at frank.lee@brainerddispatch.com . Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchFL .

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The Halvorson-Johnson Funeral Home building sits on the property for sale at 703 Oak St. in Brainerd. Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch

Related Topics: NONPROFITS
I cover the community of Wadena, Minn., and write articles for the Wadena Pioneer Journal weekly newspaper owned by Forum Communications Co.
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