ATLANTIC — Atlantic officials are looking to institute a grant program to address a growing child-care crisis in the community.

Speaking to the City Council Wednesday night, officials said the city has lost the capacity to care for over 100 children after the loss of one care center and three in-home providers. That loss could have a negative impact on the economic growth of the community as potential employees seek jobs close to child child care.

“That’s a real issue, economic development wise,” CADCO Executive Director Jennifer McEntaffer told the Council. “If you don’t have child-care, you don’t go to work.”

Shirley Urich, a Community Development Specialist with the Child Care Resource and Referral of Southwest Iowa. said in an effort to turn that trend around she is working a “Child Care Ready” program that helps center and in-home provider get additional staff so that they can take in more children.

“Two in-home providers are going through the program now, but won’t be ready until December,” she said adding that she is working to get an Atlantic only Child Care Ready program up and running in December.

In addition. a grant program is being developed, with seed money from the Iowa Women’s Foundation, that will provide at least $250 per provider to help with startup costs.

Those costs can add up quickly and include paying for things like CPR and First Aid training, fire extinguishers in the home, smoke detectors, cribs for babies and others items. The list is daunting enough that it often discourages interested parties who may be looking into starting a new center.

Ultimately, the goal is to raise enough matching funds to provide a $1,000 grant per startup.

Council members welcomed the idea but some suggested that as the program progresses enough oversight is done to make sure the money is spent as it was intended.

Urich added that, in addition to oversight, the grant funds would not be provided until an application to the DHS had been completed.

Email Jeff Lundquist at jrlund@ant-news.com

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