MASON CITY — A coalition of organizations is working together to raise $600,000 by Wednesday to ensure every child in Cerro Gordo County has access to reliable child care to help them grow, learn and develop in a healthy environment.
In the county, child care centers have the physical capacity to add hundreds of additional children, but they do not have the workforce to care for them. Mason City Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Colleen Frein says the Cerro Gordo County Child Care Works coalition’s ambitious overall goal would help open up those daycare slots. “We have a goal of bringing $1.2 million to kickstart this to really fully fund this. We don’t want to do this halfway. We want to make sure that we are really implementing this fully so that we can prove that this is what can work, this is what we can do to get our centers fully staffed again and get 300-plus children that are on a waiting list in our community into a child care center so their parents can go to work, or their grandparents can fully retire, or there are in some cases older brothers and sisters can go back to school, because we have a lot of high schoolers that are staying home from high school to take care of their younger siblings.”
Frein says the coalition has a good opportunity right now to have matching funds help with this initiative, but they’ve been given a very short time period to do that. “There are matching funds available to us, so we can get a one-to-one match for every dollar that’s invested into this project. The tricky part is they gave us a very short window. We have to have those funds pledged to us by this coming Wednesday. The beauty is if we can raise $600,000 with these investments, we will get to our $1.2 million with the one-to-one matching funds.”
Frein says the child care situation in north-central Iowa impacts everyone. “For example, a lot of our banks report that they lose some of their tellers, some of their staff because they have children and they find that working and taking their kids to child care just doesn’t add up, that at the end of the day they are essentially losing money by going to work, so they end up staying home with their children. We could make this more affordable, more accessible, and sometimes it’s not a choice for them. It’s not that they would rather stay home than work, it’s that there’s no one to take care of their child, so they have to stay home with them and not enter the workforce.”
The initiative’s wage supplement program aims to use funds to raise employee pay by $2 an hour at 10 child care centers in the county, making the average wage more competitive and the industry more attractive for workers. For more, head to the website childcareworksnorthiowa.com