Iron Range gets federal funding for childcare access, 2 new centers planned

The United Way of Northeastern Minnesota helped secure $1.2 million in federal childcare funding.
The United Way of Northeastern Minnesota helped secure $1.2 million in federal childcare funding.(Northern News Now)
Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 5:03 PM CST
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CHISHOLM, MN -- A $1.2 million investment from the federal government aims to make childcare more accessible for families on the Iron Range.

The funding is meant to address what Iron Range leaders call a critical shortage of childcare in the region.

“When we had our first study completed a while back, and they were researching the shortage of childcare in our region, it was alarming,” said Erin Shay, Executive Director of the United Way of Northeastern Minnesota.

Shay and her organization requested help from U.S. Senators Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar, hoping to make a dent in that shortage.

“It has a big impact on families, particularly women being able to return to work after the pandemic. There are people driving miles and miles and miles to get their kids to a safe spot,” said Sen. Smith (D).

Smith recently helped secure the federal investment into childcare.

Friday, she attended a roundtable with St. Louis County Leaders at the United Way of Northeastern Minnesota in Chisholm.

“What happened is that (United Way) submitted a request for congressionally designated funding earmarks that Senator Klobuchar and I responded to. We’re really glad to be able to get money to support this childcare facility,” said Smith.

According to Chris Ismil with the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, that money will help build not one but two new childcare facilities, one in Chisholm and one in Ely.

“$1 million will go directly into the construction of two facilities and then $200,000 can be used for smaller grants that can impact other childcare startups or existing folks across our region,” said Ismil.

The new spaces in Chisholm and Ely will likely provide an estimated 240 kids with consistent access to childcare by the end of 2023.

“It’s especially an issue in rural Minnesota where we’ve lost a lot of the family childcare providers that were a real safety net for families. And so what the United Way is doing here to start to fill that gap and build these two centers is a big deal,” said Smith.

Smith also mentioned she plans to work with Senator Klobuchar to secure funding for rural broadband and housing.