ST. PAUL — Thousands of Minnesota child care providers will be eligible for federal grant funds to offset the cost of guarding kids and staff against the coronavirus, Gov. Tim Walz announced Tuesday, July 7.
Walz announced that he would put $56.6 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds toward grants for child care providers to help them pay for protections against COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, in the workplace. The measure, which uses the federal funds, needs approval from a panel of legislators before it can become accessible to providers.
Lawmakers earlier this year approved a $30 million boost for child care providers faced with caring for the children of first responders. And Walz said the additional funding was needed to help providers safely bring in more little ones as their parents return to work.
The governor said roughly 6,000 home providers would be eligible for the program and 11,000 center-based child care providers would qualify for grant funding.
“The child care business was at a crisis before COVID in Minnesota and across the country. It’s a very challenging business and the margins are increasingly small,” Walz said. “These grants aren’t going to make folks whole, they are only going to do the things that we need to to make sure we continue the safety. We have a long ways to go.”
Angela Kapp, owner and director at the Learning Garden in St. Paul, said the pandemic forced three-quarters of parents who’d placed their children in her care centers to remove them by March. And that fueled a deep financial hardship for the Learning Garden.
“We struggled, we didn’t know what to do. So we laid many staff off at that point,” Kapp said, noting the initial COVID-19 relief funding allowed them to buy more sanitary equipment. “This grant will really help us with that, make sure we have the staff that we need to continue to grow and serve the families in our community.”
Walz also said his administration continued to work on guidance for sending older children back to schools in the fall and that was being assessed with an eye toward the health and safety of students, educators and school staff. He said he expected firmer guidance on that to become available next week.
“It is not yet totally fleshed out,” Walz said. “The key for parents being confident in taking their children back to a child care center or back to school is the belief that the child will be safe and the same with your teachers if they know they’ll be safe.”