A problem dating from before the pandemic for Beltrami County has now been exacerbated by the aftermath of COVID-19: the child care crisis.
Working with Greater Bemidji for over four years, Beltrami County is hoping their most current collaboration through a Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) grant can alleviate not only the stress on the county, but parents as well.
Because of the child care crisis, Greater Bemidji and the county came together to find a solution. With nearly 900 slots needed to fulfill child care needs in the county, the two entities developed the Special Family Child Care Forgivable Loan Program.
“We want to encourage our economic growth in this area,” said Beltrami County Health & Human Services Economic Assistance Division Director Anne Lindseth. “We have families that want to go to work…they have young children and those children need quality care.”
With the update to the special child care licensing allowing religious organizations, non-profits, and employers to hold of these licenses, the loan programs is to assist with expenses such as real estate purchasing and/or renovation, equipment and supplies, and start-up related costs such as staffing.
Through this loan program and a public/private partnership, Greater Bemidji and Beltrami County are hoping this plan will allow employers to retain current staffing, expand recruitment efforts for new employees, and offer the much-needed child care slots to the community.
“Whether it be family child care or child care centers, they really do need some sort of subsidy in order to make their business…sustainable but then also have them thrive within their business,” says Greater Bemidji Assistant Director Erin Echternach, who also worked with the Minnesota Department of Human Services Child Care Task Force.
Greater Bemidji and Beltrami County are looking at helping child care providers for the infant and toddler age ranges. Loans will be distributed on a first come, first serve basis, and the total amount that will be distributed as a forgivable loan is $140,000.
The necessary licensing can be done through Beltrami County Social Services.
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