Cerro Gordo supervisors approve pledge to countywide child care initiative

MASON CITY — The Cerro Gordo County Board of Supervisors today approved a pledge of $50,000 over three years to support an initiative to make sure every child in Cerro Gordo County has access to reliable child care.

The Cerro Gordo County Child Care Works coalition is raising money to help boost employee pay at 10 child care centers in the county who are understaffed, and in turn with more staff being hired, opening up daycare slots in those centers.

The coalition has been trying to secure $600,000 in pledges in an effort to get another $600,000 in matching funds from the state. The supervisors last month had shown support for the program but were not ready to put a dollar figure on how much support the county would pledge.

Kelli Gerdes of the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health is part of the coalition and says with the child care situation being one of Governor Reynolds top priorities, she expects state leaders to focus on continuing to support programs like this.  “They’ve been looking at other ways to put additional money into this program already this year, so it does seem to be a big priority at the top in Iowa. So we’re hopeful that future years will continue to see some opportunity for matched funds.”

Gerdes says even if for some reason the matching funds were not awarded, the coalition wants to start addressing the county’s child care needs.  “I can’t say that I don’t think we won’t get the match. The state’s pretty much said that ‘this year we will match you’, so it would be the subsequent years that we would hope the match would continue, but to be determined. Obviously the legislature could decide this is really taking off and ‘we need to do something bigger and better for all of Iowa’, and what does that look like? Our local three-year pledge, not written in stone, allows us that flexibility to move where the momentum is hopefully going to go across the state.”

Supervisors chairman Casey Callanan says the county supports programs like these that are trying to utilize state and federal funds.  “Anytime we can leverage one-to-one from the state, we always try to take a swing at it. I think it’s going to be a pretty competitive process that we may not get, but it’s clearly the state that’s pushing this as a priority.”

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