AMES, Iowa — Accessing and affording childcare has been increasingly difficult within the last few years due to the pandemic. Recently new grants were awarded by Governor Kim Reynolds for facilities across Iowa. 

Nearly $37 million in child care grants were awarded to projects that will create over 5,000 new child care slots across Iowa. Professor of Rural Sociology at Iowa State University, David Peters, said that the need for money is especially high in small towns.

“The main thing it does is what the governor’s grants do is provide new spaces. And so what she’s done is have a competitive program where local communities work together to repurpose existing spaces and develop local partnerships to create more daycare slots in primarily rural communities in smaller towns. And so that’s one of the main needs is in rural areas or just a lack of access in those spots. And so it’s a way to actually build new facilities and get things up and running. So that definitely meets the access issue, enough spots,” said Peters.

According to the governor’s office, Iowa leads the nation in the percentage of households where both parents work outside the home.

This money will fund 108 projects in 72 Iowa communities.

The governor says she hopes this will alleviate the burden of finding childcare for families and will allow parents to stay in or return to the workforce.

Childcare facilities across the state say that the two biggest challenges are available spots but also adequate staffing. While the Iowa legislature is working on access, the Iowa Department of Human Services is targeting employment. 

“So Iowa is putting $30 million of American Rescue Plan Act funds towards recruitment and retention bonuses for our existing childcare staff and then new staff that are recruited and then maintain their position for a period of time. So that’s going to be coming out in February and will be on our funding opportunities webpage,” said Ryan Page, Childcare Regulatory Program Manager for the Childcare Bureau at the Department of Human Services.