CALUMET COUNTY (NBC 26) — Calumet County is allocating federal pandemic relief funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to address a lack of child care in the county due to staffing shortages. Officials say that improving access to child care will help alleviate staffing shortages for other employers.
“We know that there are employers throughout Calumet County that are struggling to hire and retain employees because those employees don’t have adequate child care,” said Community Economic Development Director Mary Kohrell. “If you’re trying to work and you don’t have family nearby, you literally have nothing to do with your children.”
The funding will help child care facilities hire new staff by providing entry-level training opportunities and reimbursement of hiring expenses, child care discounts for children of staff, a sign-on bonus program, and quality support specialists to assist each child care facility.
The program will support seven group child care centers and eleven family child care homes. The total cost of the program is $689,783.
The county collaborated with Child Care Resource & Referall, a non-profit agency that services 5 counties throughout Northeast Wisconsin, to implement the program.
“Working in child care is not one of those jobs where you can wait until you come back from being sick and it’ll wait in your inbox. You have to be able to have qualified staff there,” said Amanda Schuler, an educational consultant for Child Care Resource and Referall.
While many child care facilities in the county have the capacity to service more families, they simply don’t have the workers, making child care less available for working parents.
“We have child care centers that are running under capacity because they don’t have adequate workers," Kohrell said. "That means not enough slots and so it just exacerbates our problem.”
In addition, many child care facilities simply can’t afford to pay the same competitive wages as other large employers.
“Childcare programs are competing with outfits such as Kwik Trip and Home Depot that are offering huge wage increases and child care just wasn’t able to compete with that,” Schuler said.
Officials say this funding will help incentivize workers to join the industry and improve the child care system throughout the county.
“If I wanted to work in childcare I can earn better wages and so I’m more inclined to stay in the child care business," Kohrell said. "That's what we hope the program will accomplish."