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Application period opens for grants intended to expand Crow Wing's child care options

Tyler Glynn, executive director of the Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corp., told commissioners last month a recent study surveying employers, parents and day care providers in Crow Wing County revealed a need for at least 1,200 more slots for children to receive care.

Crow Wing County Historic Court House3.jpg
The Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Existing Crow Wing County day care providers and those considering opening a child care business may now apply for grants intended to help increase availability for parents.

Between now and 4 p.m. Dec. 6, Crow Wing County will accept applications from those interested in acquiring a piece of the $500,000 pie county commissioners agreed last week to use in an effort to address a significant shortage in slots revealed in a recent study. Tyler Glynn, executive director of the Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corp., told commissioners last month a recent study surveying employers, parents and day care providers in Crow Wing County revealed a need for at least 1,200 more slots for children to receive care. This shortage, Glynn said, is a contributing factor to the overall labor shortage plaguing many industries.

“I look at this as, it’s one step in the right direction, and I think we can really make an impact here if we put some resources toward this. … With some of this funding, we can help with the licensing, help with the startup costs,” Glynn said last month. “We still need bodies, just like everything else. This is a great step in the right direction, utilizing these funds.”

The funds are a portion of the first half of the $12.6 million awarded to the county in the federal American Rescue Plan Act. There is no cap on individual child care grant requests, but there is a set of requirements as well as a list of eligible expenses for providers to consider. To be eligible, providers must have or plan to have a physical location in Crow Wing County, they must be licensed through the state or be obtaining a license and they must commit to operating the business for at least two years upon the acceptance of funds.

If selected, providers may use the grant dollars on eligible expenses including child care business start-up or expansion, training, facility modifications or improvements required for licensing, assistance with licensing or other regulatory requirements, playground equipment, safety equipment, curriculum and potentially other expenses, as approved by county officials and eligible based on federal guidance.

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Funds cannot be used for lobbyists or political contributions, taxes (except sales tax on goods and services considered eligible), fundraising, bad debts, late payment fees, finance charges, contingency funds, parking or traffic violations, or out-of-state transportation and travel expenses.

Those interested can find more information and the online application at https://bit.ly/3GG6JZu . Applicants will be required to upload a proposal narrative describing how the project will increase the supply of quality child care, which communities are targeted and how funds would be used, along with a timeline. A detailed budget will also be required, and for start-up businesses, a business plan and detailed financial projections. Those looking for help with this requirement may contact BLAEDC to be connected with a business consultant.

For questions, call 218-828-0096 or email tyler@growbrainerdlakes.org .

Other spending priorities

In addition to shoring up child care, commissioners also agreed to four other spending priorities for the $6.3 million in federal funds: bolstering spending on expanding broadband access and infrastructure including sewer and water, internal Crow Wing County department needs, county government capital improvements and funds to ensure the future independence of the Family Services Collaborative of the Lakes Area.

Finance Director Nick Mielke told commissioners last month language in the law passed by Congress authorizing the relief funds for local governments stated those dollars could be spent on public health, addressing negative economic impacts, offering premium pay for essential workers, governmental revenue loss or broadband, sewer or water infrastructure projects.

A total of $1 million is set aside for proposals from internet service providers and the three sanitary sewer districts in the county, with applicants agreeing to fund at least 20% of the cost of their proposed projects. And depending on the location of the infrastructure, Houle noted collaborating with township governments to tap some of their federal funds may help stretch the dollars further.

Two internal county uses are on the docket: permitting leaders of each department to pitch various proposals that may fall under allowable uses for the funds, and identifying projects on the county’s capital improvement plan that could utilize those funds instead of county property tax levy dollars. A total of $1.5 million is set aside for departmental use, and the capital improvements portion remains open-ended.

The final element of the relief program is to solicit a grant request from the Family Services Collaborative of the Lakes Area. The collaborative was originally a joint effort between school districts, the federal government and county governments to draw down federal resources for various child social work programs. As federal resources to this programming dries up, American Rescue Plan Act dollars provide an opportunity to give the organization independence from governmental reliance, county leaders said.

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No maximum dollar amount was associated with this proposal, but the collaborative will be asked to offer a figure that would assure its independence.

CHELSEY PERKINS, community editor, may be reached at 218-855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at twitter.com/DispatchChelsey .

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