Elevate Rapid City helps daycares; hope to improve other issues with him

RAPID CITY, SD — Elevate Rapid City has launched a Daycare Assistance Program to help fund places that care for area children.

It is available for child care centers or home daycares, whether they are already established areas or people wanting to start a new one.

There is hope that this will solve some problems like being able to bring more children to daycare and allowing parents to return to work.

“We think it will be successful if we move the needle by opening somewhere between 200 and 300 slots for children and families, say 50 to 200 workers back in the workforce,” Tom Johnson, president and CEO management of Elevate Rapid City, said. “And if it works, we will try even more. That’s what we think we can do.

Applications for the Down Payment Assistance Program and Home Child Care Subsidy are how someone would start the process.

For the selection process, Elevate staff will review applications as they come in. The next step will be an on-site interview which will be scheduled. The final step is to invite the applicant to present to the Elevate Rapid City Board of Directors for final approval.

Here are the answers to some questions you might have:

What is the reason for starting this program?

There are a few things that Elevate hopes the program will help with. It will help child care centers improve their facilities, either by expanding their building or by purchasing new equipment and/or furniture. Hopefully this will help parents like single moms and dads trying to re-enter the job market after the pandemic by having more places available for children and making it more affordable. Additionally, there is hope that it will improve employee child care rates since locations will be able to move more money to pay their employees if they are able to receive a subsidy.

Is this the solution to things like unemployment rates?

It’s not quite the solution, but it’s something to try to help the problem the nation is facing.

“I wish there was a silver bullet to solve the problem of labor and childcare. Unfortunately, there isn’t. And Elevate – I think one of the things we’re known for is trying everything we can,” Johnson said. “So what we do is we do it as a driver. So I think for the next six months we’ll see where that leads. We’re gonna throw stuff against the wall and see what sticks. And if it works we’ll keep doing it and if it doesn’t we’ll pivot and try something different.

How will spaces for children open up in child care centers if they also have trouble finding employees?

There is hope that if companies are able to get the grant money for their facilities, they can move some of their own funds to pay their employees more. Also, having more slots will likely result in more employees and vice versa.

“So we think that might have an additional effect and hopefully that will help raise wages, which will draw more people into child care,” Johnson said. “Right now, we know your daycare workers are probably making between $12 and $13 an hour. But we also know they can go to fast food right now and make $15 or $16 an hour. So you see a lot of educators who are passionate about this work and decide to go elsewhere because they can make more money. Obviously, it’s a short term decision and something they probably don’t want to do in the long term. But we’re trying to get more of them to stay in the field, gain expertise in the field, and come back to the field.

How did these problems arise to arrive at this program?

This problem is not just a problem in Rapid City; it’s all over the country. Johnson says it’s a labor issue companies will face over the next decade. People might think it’s a side effect of the pandemic, but demographic change is also playing into it with lower fertility rates in the United States. There are not as many workers entering the labor market.

“So that’s an overall part of the problem that we’re going to continue to face. We just don’t have those workers and our immigration policies really haven’t kept up with our demand for that work,” Johnson said. “So you have to do things like that. Be creative and then try to put capital and grants into these kinds of facilities so they can free up some of those dollars.”

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