United Way of Door County wins $ 3.5 million grant to improve child care

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STURGEON BAY – United Way of Door County to receive state grant of up to $ 3.5 million to improve affordable and quality child care in the county, including modifications to two day care centers existing.

This was among 12 grants totaling $ 59.5 million for regional projects under the state’s Workforce Innovation Grants program, which “… aims to develop long-term solutions. end to the challenges of the Wisconsin workforce, ”according to a press release announcing the grants.

Governor Tony Evers announced the grants to Eau Claire on Tuesday but, as part of a tour of the communities of other grantees, visited the Door County Community Foundation in downtown Sturgeon Bay for a local announcement on Thursday after- midday.

A portion of the Door County grant will allow the Door Community Child Development Center in Sturgeon Bay and the Northern Door Children’s Center in Sister Bay to develop new business models, then build a new facility at Door Community and complete renovations. majors at Northern Door Children’s to create the new models. feasible.

Grant funds would also be used to attract and hire more child care workers to the peninsula, an important part of the revised business models, said Amy Kohnle, executive director of United Way of Door County.

“We currently need daycare educators,” Kohnle said. “As we implement elements of the grant, we need to consider training and adding child care workers, so as we increase our workforce in Door County, our child care centers can eventually accommodate more workers. “

A portion of the grant will also go to affordable housing developments planned by the Door County Housing Partnership and Paula Anschutz, the latter of which plans to turn rental cabins at the former Little Sister Resort in Sister Bay into residences, with a handful of new ones. homes for early childhood education workers.

The changes funded by the grant were recommended by a community child care task force that local United Way set up that began meeting in February 2020, Kohnle said.

Speaking to the lawyer, Kohnle stressed the importance of improving child care services in Door County, making them both affordable and more available. She said it was essential to attract and retain young working families who could count on her services, which is why the grant comes from a workforce development program.

“It’s critical. I would say we’re at a critical point with child care in Door County,” Kohnle said. “When you look at the waiting lists, when you try to be at full capacity when the centers are fully staffed… outside of sick days, I have to go to work. ‘”

The business model needs to change for several reasons, Kohnle said. One is to make quality child care more accessible to second-shift workers, with centers currently offering child care during daylight hours.

Another is the rise of 4K classrooms in schools. Kohnle noted that daycare staff establish staff-to-child ratios based on age; the norm for infants is one adult for every four children, for example, with fewer adults per child needed for older age groups.

This infant staffing is therefore more expensive for health centers, but as children move past the age of 3, what Kohnle called the economic “breaking point” for health centers, parents shifted. more often prepare to send their children to 4K class.

“When you look at how prevalent 4K is now in Door County, you have very little child care population where you can make money,” Kohnle said. “That’s why you need to add new components to the business model… Anyone who knows child care work knows the business model is broken. “

Kohnle said the next step, after completing the required state documents, is to meet with the subcontractors and work on the facility plans. She noted that the grant period is three years, so she expects United Way and its partners to work “quickly and furiously” next year to put plans in place and execute them in 2023 and 24.

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The 12 grants announced on Tuesday were the first round of the program, for which a total of $ 100 million was allocated using US federal bailout law funds for financial relief from the COVID-pandemic. 19. The second round of grants is expected to be announced in 2022.

“Wisconsin has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country and we have a high participation in the labor market, but our state faces long-standing workforce issues that have existed for years before. pandemic, ”Evers said in announcing the grants Tuesday to Eau Claire with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. Secretary / CEO Missy Hughes and Department of Workforce Development Secretary-designate Amy Pechacek.

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution to tackling workforce challenges in our state, so these funds are of crucial importance in encouraging regions and communities to develop cutting-edge and long-term solutions. end the unique workforce challenges they face. These investments will make a big difference to our workers, our families and our communities and the long-term success of our state. “

The expansion of quality child care services in Green County and the Madison area was among the other projects funded by this round of grants. Other grants went to:

  • Public-private partnership projects to train and attract health workers across rural Wisconsin
  • Develop next-generation advanced manufacturing employees in Midwestern and Southeastern Wisconsin
  • Building pipelines of educated young workers in Milwaukee
  • Train construction workers and skilled craftspeople statewide
  • Fostering a Culture of Entrepreneurship in Kenosha
  • Allow incarcerated persons to obtain undergraduate degrees from the University of Wisconsin.

Individual awards ranged from $ 10 million for the Eau Claire-based Chippewa Valley Technical College to $ 990,000 for the Kenosha town’s gBeta entrepreneurial program.

Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or [email protected]


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