Partner Up! Grant Program to benefit area workers, businesses


GREEN BAY (NBC 26) — As we face rising costs and limited availability, a new statewide initiative is connecting local businesses with child care programs to help employees find affordable child care.

The Partner Up! Grant Program is providing $10 million to support relationships between local businesses and regulated child care providers. It’s an effort through the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families designed to help business employees find and pay for child care.

“It’s a wonderful solution,” said Bob Pekol, Family & Childcare Resources of N.E.W. early childhood consultant. “The issue of child care capacity issues and the workforce – there’s multiple layers to the problem and this is definitely one solution.”
According to the latest survey from the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 14,000 Wisconsin adults recently left their jobs to care for kids ages five and younger.

Pekol said the grant may attract people back into the workforce.

Businesses that receive the grant will contribute at least 25% of the true cost of child care. The Partner Up! Grant Program will contribute the remaining amount.

“Those savings are then passed down to those businesses’ employees, where they will then pay very little or none for the cost of child care,” Pekol said.

Child care providers can also apply to help with cost of their employees’ child care.

“The true cost of care is more than the centers are charging,” said Mallory Hackel, Family Connections, Inc. business child care advocate. “Hopefully with that extra amount, they’ll be able to have higher wages to hopefully hire more {workers} and also keep their employees in child care.”

Businesses can use funding to increase staff compensation, pay expenses, reserve child care slots and improve the quality of child care programs.

“They’d be able to offer an attractive benefit, such as child care assistance. That would help with employee retention, productivity increase, {and} strengthen the local community,” Hackel said.

About 400 businesses across the state have applied for the grant so far, including McDonald Companies in Green Bay.

Hunter Roop, a Luxembourg resident, is a forklift operator at McDonald Companies. Roop and his wife have two young kids in child care.

“We’re both full-time working parents, and it can be very hard, and stressful to try and figure out the child care situation,” Roop said. “I think last year we spent about $24,000 on child care. So it’s a big chunk of money to be able to have your kids go to day care.”

Roop said their child care provider informed them about the Partner Up! Grant Program. Roop brought the idea to his employer, who applied for the grant shortly after.

“I really do think this is a great program,” Roop said. “It’s really beneficial to both employers and employees, and really helps the employees to offset that child care cost.”

The Supporting Families Together Association, in partnership with Wisconsin’s nine Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies, will administer the Partner Up! Grant Program.

Businesses have until April 4 to apply.

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