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New program keeps Wisconsin child care providers alive

A government funded program is helping Wisconsin child care providers get through the bumps of the pandemic.
Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 9:32 PM CST
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STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) - A government funded program is helping Wisconsin child care providers get through the bumps of the pandemic.

It’s called the ‘Child Care Counts’ program, where a total of $351M will go to child care providers statewide through 2023. So far, $919K has gone towards providers in central Wisconsin. ‘Child Care Counts’ is keeping many Wisconsin day care centers alive.

“This is a wonderful program. It is keeping us open. It is keeping us surviving,” Little Sneakers Family Day Care in Stevens Point Owner Mary Olson said.

Olson is one of 36 other providers in Portage County getting a break from the American Rescue Plan.

“It helps me to stay and maintain the budget that I already have in place it also helps me to keep the costs down for the families,” Olson said.

Olson has been in the child care business for over 30 years. She said with prices rising everywhere, the money she gets helps keep her prices affordable, allowing families to live comfortably.

“I never want day care to be such a strapping expense on a family that they can’t do those fun things that a family should get to do,” Olson said.

The pandemic has caused many other centers to cut staff, pay and turn families away, while raising their prices. The Department of Children and Families (DCF) launched the monthly payment program with those needs in mind.

“It’s really built off this concept that we need to make sure that we don’t lose a single child care provider during this pandemic,” DCF Secretary Emilie Amundson said.

The money is distributed through two programs. One to help recruit staff, and the other to pay for high quality materials. About 4K providers statewide have benefited, some of which may not have made it without the help.

“Probably once a day we get and email from a provider who says ‘we would have closed had we not had this lifeline of the child care counts program,’” Amundson said.

Child care counts runs for 18 months and providers can enroll anytime. The DCF is coming up with a plan to help providers after the program ends.

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