Governor Greg Gianforte and Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) Director Charlie Brereton announced today an $18 million investment to fund 31 child care innovation grants across the state.
“For too long, Montana’s working families faced a shortage of child care providers, putting them between a rock and a hard place,” Gov. Gianforte said. “To increase access to sustainable, quality child care and address this longstanding problem, we’re investing in quality providers who operate in child care deserts throughout our state.”
Recommended to the governor by the ARPA Health Advisory Commission, the funding will increase child care capacity by opening new, or significantly expanding current, child care facilities. Funding award amounts ranged from $142,000 to $1 million.
Specifically, the funding targets areas with significant observed shortages of child care capacity, also known as child care deserts. The project is intended to create capacity based on each community’s specific needs by leveraging resources, organizations, and plans unique to that community.
“We look forward to these numerous projects moving forward to meet existing needs,” Director Brereton said. “We appreciate the careful thought and planning that went into the applications that we believe will make a tremendous difference in Montana.”
For example, Browning Public Schools (BPS) cited in their application two main primary needs for the funding: the current severe shortage of child care providers in the community and the increasing teacher shortage. Officials said they are hopeful this funding will help address both of those needs by increasing more child care slots, and by attracting more qualified teachers to the district. BPS requested and received a grant for $207,000.
Family Promise of the Gallatin Valley noted in their application the lack of affordable child care options in the area, especially for low income, homeless, and other vulnerable families. They also noted child care waitlists are extensive throughout the Bozeman community and plan to expand the Rising Stars Early Learning Center through a grant of nearly $1 million.
The applications were required to address a demonstrated community need, affordability of child care, increased access to childcare in underserved communities, quality child care for children, and sustainability of a high quality child care workforce and programming.
In addition, the projects were also required to address one or more of the following areas, including:
Community partnerships such as public-private partnerships; partnerships with business, including employer-supported child care; or community collaboration models.
New or expanded services for infants, toddlers, and children from vulnerable populations.
Care offered during non-traditional hours between 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. and/or weekends.
Collaborative approaches such as, but not limited to, child care hubs or shared space models.
The list of counties the award recipients serve include Glacier, Gallatin, Missoula, Mineral, Ravalli, Lewis and Clark, Beaverhead, Carter, Flathead, Granite, Yellowstone, Jefferson, Carbon, Deer Lodge, Sweet Grass, Fergus, Judith Basin, Petroleum, and Cascade. The full list of recipients can be found here.
At the governor’s direction, DPHHS last year made more than $61 million in federal funding available to stabilize Montana’s child care Currently, 66% of that funding has been obligated. To date, the program has contracted with 551 child care providers serving just over 15,000 Montana kids.
In May, DPHHS announced a $7 million investment in workforce incentive funding for child care providers and staff. The funding is being distributed in two rounds. The intent of the funding was to provide an incentive for those currently working in child care, and then provide additional incentives for those who remain working in child care later this year.
DPHHS is partnering with Zero to Five Montana to launch statewide targeted child care business specialized training, consultation, professional development and individualized technical support for child care business stabilization and expansion.
This project is part of a larger continuum of support for the child care industry in Montana aimed at strengthening business practices for child care businesses and enhancing the availability, affordability, and accessibility of high-quality child care for children and families in Montana.