Iowa passes on $30 million in funding for child care


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A local child care worker says that money was needed to help the industry stay afloat.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa will be losing out on $30 million in federal grant money meant for child care services. 

A local child care worker says that money was needed to help the industry stay afloat.

Conmigo Early Education Center Director Kay Strahorn told Local 5 she was shocked to know the state passed on the grant — because several agencies spent months making sure the paperwork for the grant was correct and now it’s all for nothing.

For Strahorn, the biggest issue they have with keeping staff is not being able to give them a living wage, even though they’ve increased staff salary recently due to COVID-19 relief funds

“Our beginning salary here at Conmigo is $11.50, and I just saw near my home, B-Bops is paying their employees $15 an hour,” Stahorn said.

Jillian Herink with Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children is worried about COVID-19 relief funds ending in the 2024 fiscal year.

She said staffing levels at Conmigo and other child care centers in the state will worsen due to the state passing up the funds. 

“If written for the full $30 million, there will be $10 million per year for three years,” Herink said.

Hernik said she’s not sure why the state passed up on the grant.

She was involved with writing the grant application and says she is disappointed the state opted not to submit it, especially since the funding would’ve gone towards increasing the quality of child care across the state, improving child care providers’ skills and helping young mothers.

Herink said. without it, child care of kids in the state will suffer.

“We’re going to revert right back to the childcare crisis. We will lose people in the field again. People don’t make a competive wage in child care; we already can’t fill the spot of teachers for classroom providers. It will just really just add more of an issue in Iowa,” Herink said.

Local 5 reached out to Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ office to find out why they passed on the federal grant.

They shared the following statement:

“Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, Gov. Reynolds has approved more than $500 million in state and federal funding to increase access to child care across the state. This investment has supported more than 12,000 programs, launched pilot projects to create blended child care and early education models, created more than 10,000 new child care slots statewide, and funded child care workforce programs.

Even now, nearly $175 million of federal funding for child care programs remains readily available within the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). After reviewing ECI’s proposal, DHHS leadership and the Office of the Governor recommended using existing funds for some of the proposed projects rather than supporting the federal grant application which would require a $3 million state match and would withhold $1 million for administration.  

Gov. Reynolds and DHHS remain committed to developing and implementing programs that improve child care and early learning opportunities for Iowa children and families.”

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