Available access to quality child care was a concern in the Northland and Douglas County prior to COVID-19.  The pandemic, the resulting shutdowns, employee shortages, and economic fallout has only made the problem situation worse.

But help is on the way.

Douglas County was recently informed that it will be receiving a $75,000 Project Growth Grant from the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families to be used to "evaluate, plan, sustain, and expand existing child care, and to support new child care programs".  The grant is part of a $20 million dollar program sourced by the State of Wisconsin.

Superior City Councilor Jenny Van Sickle was central to the success of the grant process working on behalf of the region as a whole.  According to details shared in an article in the Superior Telegram [paywall], Van Sickle began the process to apply for Child Care Relief grants for the city.  However, her research quickly uncovered the fact that "Douglas County as a whole was disproportionately affected by the pandemic".  Faced with the data, she knew she "...couldn't leave them [neighboring communities] out".

Wisconsin Department of Children and Families Secretary Emilie Amundson believes that by working together, good things can be accomplished:

"We have seen in various communities across the state that when business, economic development, early learning, and other community partners come together and innovate, we all benefit.  These grants are helping us kickstart and build those partnerships, as well as find innovative and sustainable child care solutions that can be modeled in communities and businesses across the state."

To best utilize their grant funding, Douglas County will work with a facilitator.  Van Sickle explains:

"Basically, child care providers in partnership with the task force that we built will decide how best our grant money can be utilized based on our unique set of challenges and solutions.  The grant money is really customizable based on what a particular area decides".

The better the buy-in from local child care providers the better.  Every single child care provider that "participates in the long term strategy process.....will [be] eligible for an additional $5,000 each to implement those strategies and those plans" that come from the process.  Additionally, those child care providers who "submit business improvement plans" can find themselves eligible for a $5,000 stipend.

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