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Hundreds of new child care slots being added in Eastern Iowa

Gazette - 1/12/2022

Jan. 12—Eastern Iowa child care providers will be adding almost 700 new child care slots after being awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars through Iowa'sChild Care Grants Project.

Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Tuesday nearly $37 million would be awarded in Child Care Grants that will create nearly 5,200 child care openings in Iowa.

The money — $27 million in federal funds to the Iowa Department of Human Services, $6.7 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds and $3 million from the Iowa Legislature — will help fund new construction and renovations and maintenance to existing centers.

According to the governor's office, Iowa leads the nation in the percentage of households where both parents work outside the home. But 23 percent of Iowans, and 35 percent in rural areas, live in areas lacking enough child care slots.

New Cedar Rapids center

A new child care center in Cedar Rapids — Fields of Fun Child Care LLC — is planning to open in April with room for up to 275 children. It was awarded a $749,044 state grant.

The center will be at 6340 Muirfield Dr. SW, formerly the location of Kids Inc., which closed abruptly last year. Taryn Krahmer bought the building, saying she saw an opportunity to meet a need in the community.

The child care grant, Krahmer said, is a "game changer."

"I'm probably going to start crying because I can't believe how amazing it is to have this assistance," Krahmer said. "This building has great bones, but it needs some maintenance."

The money will fund 108 projects in 72 Iowa communities — including Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and Fairfield — and will be matched by another $9.7 million in private investment generated through community-based partnerships.

Other grants

The College Community School District Early Childhood Center received $517,366 for an additional 48 child care slots, primarily infants and toddlers. The center, at 401 76th Ave. SW in Cedar Rapids, is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Kathy Schulte, the center's principal, said expanding the center will "put a dent in" the district's waiting list, which exceeds 100 children.

"This is a huge win for students, families and staff here," she said. "I'm super excited to get the project rolling. It's going to benefit everyone in our community."

The Arc of East Central Iowa, at 680 Second St. SE in Cedar Rapids, received $45,493, which will help create an additional 33 child care slots.

"Child care is at a deficit in the entire state for all children, but for children who have special needs and disabilities it is even more difficult for families to find care," said Theresa Lewis, the Arc's executive director.

The funding will enable the Arc to increase capacity by renovating underused space, Lewis said, including renovating its restroom.

With the additional child care slots across the state, Lewis said staffing will be a challenge.

The majority of the Arc's services, in particular, are funded through Medicaid, which increased its rates for the first time in a decade, Lewis said.

"That increase, while much appreciated, still is not keeping up with the cost of living," she said.

Other recipients of the child care grants in Eastern Iowa include:

Little Creations Academy, 2929 E. Court St., Iowa City$77,465 for an additional 29 child care slots

— The Arc of Southeast Iowa, 2620 Muscatine Ave., Iowa City$274,530 for an additional 40 child care slots

Singing Cedars School LLC, 2149 N. B St., Fairfield$414,700 for an additional 45 child care slots

Jefferson County Kids Inc., in Fairfield$522,629, to go toward the opening of the new center and creation of 185 child care slots.

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