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Making use of a half-million dollars of American Rescue Plan Act funds, the City of Moline is embarking on an ambitious plan to expand child care options across the city in an effort to allow more folks to go back to work while boosting early childhood educational outcomes.
The soon-to-launch ARPA Childcare/Workforce Infrastructure Forgivable Loan Program aims to assist families and businesses that have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic by delivering higher quality and more worker-friendly daycare options. The program will work similarly to the City’s successful 2021 micro-business loan program that helped dozens of Moline entrepreneurs survive the economic impacts of the COVID pandemic.
“Childcare options are a crucial part of our workforce infrastructure,” said Moline Mayor Rayapati, who has championed the new program with the assistance of a mayoral working group that included representatives from area child care facilities, the YMCA and Q2030 – a Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce created non-profit focuses on driving regional cooperation. “In order for our labor force to grow back to pre-pandemic levels and beyond, we need people to get back to work and to meet them where their needs are, whether that’s increasing available slots or expanding the hours of operation.”
Loans of up to $50,000 will be granted to child care providers – either existing or new – to improve the quality and availability of daycare, encourage and support those businesses to continue their operations, expand their operations or to open new day care facilities. Priority will be given to providers that offer non-traditional hours, particularly second and third shifts, overnights and weekends, and those equipped to care for infants, toddlers and children with special needs. Funds may be used to buy equipment, such as cribs, toys, highchairs and books, to make minor building modifications to meet government regulations for safety and accessibility, expand operations, pay for staff training and to pay for certain start -up costs. Program funds are not available to pay staff wages.
Rayapati said many people who wish to go back to work cannot, due to having very young children at home or working hours when daycare options are extremely limited.
“You really need 24-7 coverage now,” she said.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the total Quad Cities labor forced decreased by 6,261 between April 2019 and April 2020. While the pandemic was the driver of much of the loss, business organizations have cited lack of quality and convenient child care is among the biggest reasons for people not re-entering the workforce. Without such infrastructure, Moline and indeed the entire Quad Cities remain vulnerable to further reductions in its labor force and resulting decreased revenues.
The Mayor’s working group received numerous letters of support for the program from the region’s congressional delegation, the Quad Cities Chamber, the United Way and individual families needing expanded childcare options.
The ARPA Childcare/Workforce Infrastructure Forgivable Loan Program will award loans based on several criteria, including the applicant’s business plan, the community needs the applicant will fill, as well as any unique services, such as second and third shift options that the applicant will offer. The program will provide much needed capital to current and new childcare providers/businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, positively impact an important workforce concern and help stabilize Moline’s economy.
Eligible applicants include:
To be eligible for funding under the program, an applicant must accept all children regardless of race, religion, ethnic origin, disability, parentage, economic circumstance or any other protected characteristics. Recipients will be required to sign a non-discrimination form as part of the agreement.
Applications will be evaluated by an independent selection committee that includes City staff and child care industry professionals. Loan amounts will be determined based on number of children served with extra points toward a qualifying score awarded for programs that have evening, overnight or weekend hours, expanded capacity, new facilities and ability to accommodate children with disabilities.
Loans awarded under this program will be forgiven after the borrower remains open for 36 months after receiving funding.
More details and a sample application can be found here.