With 14 kids in her care, Jane Hovey puts in 11 hours over two shifts each weekday as a family-based child care provider in Atwater. When she had her own children, opening a child care was a way to create an employment opportunity while being a stay-at-home parent. Thirty-three years later, Jane has been caring for kids in the community so long that one of her former child care charges is now her hairdresser. She likes seeing “her kids” around town now that they’re grown; some even stop by her house to visit. She has no plans to retire, “even though 60 is knocking. I just enjoy it.”
In all this time as a child care provider, Jane has not experienced a challenge like COVID-19. With the pandemic, she struggled to secure supplies for updated cleaning protocols, to meet food requirements with cost increases and to manage revenue as families dropped out due to health concerns. Southwest Initiative Foundation awarded her a grant that helped her remain open.
When Minnesota’s stay- at-home executive order was issued in March to slow the speed and spread of COVID-19 and give our health care systems more time to prepare and keep us safe, it had an immediate effect on our economy, businesses and family situations, too. The six Minnesota Initiative Foundations, including Southwest Initiative Foundation, formed the Emergency Child Care Grant Program to provide immediate financial support until state and federal relief programs could get up and running.
The Emergency Child Care Grant program was launched March 26 with dollars going out the door over the two weeks that followed. Jane was one of 520 providers in southwest Minnesota to receive a grant.
Across the state, the program supported more than 1,500 providers with nearly $1.4 million dollars. Southwest Initiative Foundation was able to fund all qualifying applications received in our region, awarding a total of $452,000 to 490 family-based providers and 30 child care centers.
“I am so thankful for the help in the form of dollars, information and understanding that what we do is very important to everyone and not just families,” Jane said. “I am thankful to be able to stay open and help those who need to work for the greater good of all.”
Jane’s child care is Parent Aware rated, showing she uses demonstrated best practices to support children. She cooks most of the meals for her kids from scratch, and the grant helped with the increase in the cost of food due to COVID-19. She also used grant money to help offset the loss of revenue from families unable to attend due to health issues like cancer and diabetes. And the grant helped her purchase supplies to enhance the distance learning for the preschool and school-age children she cares for, plus extra cleaning supplies to sanitize properly and more frequently.
While the Emergency Child Care Grant helped fill a gap for Jane and many other providers, there is still a great need for both short- and long-term community child care solutions. A survey from the National Association for the Education of Young Children released in July showed enrollment has fallen an average of 67 percent. At the same time, upwards of 70 percent of child care centers are incurring substantial, additional costs for staff (72 percent), cleaning supplies (92 percent), and personal protective equipment (81 percent).
“Southwest Initiative Foundation has been working hard for several years to leverage dollars and create and retain nearly 1,000 child care slots in southwest Minnesota. We’re committed to continue doing all we can to ensure child care providers are here as families need them, both today during crisis and ahead when more families return to work and need child care,” said Jodi Maertens, Southwest Initiative Foundation Youth and Family Officer.
Generous donors support child care providers
Southwest Initiative Foundation secured multiple resources to award emergency child care grants. We received $130,000 from the Minnesota Council on Foundation’s Minnesota Disaster Recovery Fund for Coronavirus, Blandin Foundation and others. Generous individuals, businesses and organizations answered our call for help, too, raising more than $68,000.
We are grateful our partners were quick to understand the urgent need and take action that made an immediate impact. A number of our local affiliates made contributions to support providers located in their community, which allowed us to fund even more child care providers:
- Appleton Community Foundation
- Clara City Area Community Foundation
- Dawson Community Foundation
- Granite Falls Area Community Foundation
- Heron Lake-Okabena Community Foundation
- Lake Benton Area Foundation
- Litchfield Area Community Foundation
- Madison Community Foundation
- Tyler Area Community Foundation
- Worthington Area Foundation
This story appears in our 2020 Annual Impact Report. Read more from the report.