American Rescue Plan may help solve child care crisis in La Crosse County

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — A shortage of child care facilities and workers is causing families to find new ways to take care of their kids, but the merican Rescue Plan Act may help provide relief.

Angie Wells, who has worked in early childhood care for 15 years,  says there’s never been enough child care to meet demand.

The past year and a half have been more difficult than ever, she said.

“With the pandemic, people have retired out of the field, its a gamble, our kids can’t be vaccinated, they don’t have the opportunity to be vaccinated, so they’re coming in with the potential of being exposed to COVID,” said Coulee Children’s Center Director Angie Wells.

When child care centers don’t have enough staff, they can’t take in as many children.

When parents don’t have a place to take their children, they can’t go to work.

“I had a mom stop who lives in the area, about two weeks ago and said she can’t go back to work full time because she doesn’t have child care,” Wells said. “So she has a job offer, but she can’t take it because her kid is on a wait list everywhere in the area.”

With La Crosse County receiving just under $23 million from the American Rescue Plan Act, help for child care services could be on its way.

“We’ve potentially located a few areas for funding, child care being one of those,” said La Crosse County Community Resource Educator Karl Green.

La Crosse County has lost more than 300 child care sites since 1998, according to the Parenting Place in La Crosse.

Money from the American Rescue Plan hopefully will bring some of those back.

Another problem, however, is finding enough staff.

“Staffing them is one of the hardest things to do in child care,” said Gundersen Childcare Center Manager Ally McGinley.

Some businesses that face worker shortages can find help from a lot of people, but for the child care industry, employers say it’s slim pickings.

“There are qualifications they have to meet through state licensing, and depending on the center, there are other standards too,” said McGinley.

The Parenting Place has proposed a project to La Crosse County called Building The Supply of Child Care.

This project uses money from the American Rescue Plan Act to fund a variety of supports to retain and expand current child care businesses, create a child care worker pipeline and create additional child care slots in the city.

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