Bettendorf-based Hand in Hand is thrilled to get $750,000 in State of Iowa funding, to expand its Pre-K childcare program.
Getting approved for the full state funding they sought was a pleasant surprise, CEO Angie Kendall said Wednesday.
“It is a huge sum of money. It will go very fast, when you’re talking about the sprinkler systems, but it will allow us to continue to grow,” Kendall said of improving fire safety and adding classroom space for 18 Pre-K slots. “We’ll provide the best care for the people who really deserve it.”
“This is a major, major amount; we did it and that is a testament to the dedication and passion of the team here,” she said.
Gov. Kim Reynolds on Wednesday awarded nearly $37 million in childcare grants to projects that will create about 5,200 new childcare slots across Iowa.
The money will fund 108 innovative projects in 72 Iowa communities – including nine centers in the Quad Cities area. It will be matched by another $9.7 million in private investment that has been generated through community-based partnerships to alleviate a local childcare need.
“I am thrilled to be able to make this substantial investment to expand access to child care for working families,” Gov. Reynolds said in the state release. “Projects funded through this program will help alleviate the burden of finding childcare for families and give more Iowans the opportunity to return to the workforce while create a lasting impact on children, parents, and communities all throughout the state.”
Originally launched in November at $10 million, the governor expanded the program to accommodate the overwhelming number of quality applications. Working together, Iowa Workforce Development and the Iowa Department of Human Services will allocate $26.9 million in DHS federal funds, $3 million appropriated by the Iowa legislature for the Child Care Challenge Fund, and $6.7 million in federal ARPA funds to the top scoring applications.
“As always, Iowans exceeded our expectations in terms of the number, quality and creativity of the applications we received,” said Beth Townsend, Director of Iowa Workforce Development. “There are an incredible number of innovative projects that will positively improve the lives of the communities, families and children that they serve.
“Having quality childcare significantly increases the number of Iowans who can work, and the investment today will pay huge dividends in our future.”
Iowa leads the nation in the percentage of households where both parents work outside the home. However, 23 percent of Iowans (35% of those in rural areas) live in areas lacking an adequate supply of child care, the release said. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Federation estimates this childcare shortage costs the state’s economy nearly $1 billion annually in lost tax revenue, worker absence and employee turnover.
“One of the most significant issues facing our workforce today is a lack of available openings. The estimated potential childcare gap in the Davenport-Rock Island-Moline MSA is 4,040 slots — resulting in a negative economic impact between $88,346,000 and $134,058,00 annually,” according to a December letter in support of state funding from Paul Rumler, president/CEO of the Quad Cities Chamber.
“Lack of accessible childcare results in increased unscheduled absenteeism, caretakers leaving the workforce entirely, turning down promotional or post-secondary opportunities, and choosing part-time over full-time employment,” he wrote. “The average working parent in the U.S. misses five to nine days of work per year because of childcare problems, costing U.S. businesses $3 billion a year.
“When childcare is available in a community, there is reduced employee absenteeism, turnover, and increased productivity,” Rumler said. “The return on investment is staggering. Studies have shown that early childhood care can have a 13% return on investment. Increasing access to quality childcare will make the Quad Cities and our entire region more attractive to working parents as they decide where to call home.
“As our business community continues dealing with workforce shortages, it is vitally important we do all we can to provide the infrastructure working families desire when searching for employment.”
Working Hand in Hand with many partners
Hand in Hand empowers individuals of all abilities to learn and grow by providing inclusive programs and supporting families. The new funding (supported by other community grants) will enable the center at 3860 Middle Road, Bettendorf, to:
- Add important life safety such as a sprinkler system and additional egress.
- Increase capacity in important areas like the kitchen to accommodate more children.
- Renovate classroom to add a Pre-K classroom in partnership with Pleasant Valley schools.
- Build an outdoor nature classroom in place of aging equipment.
- Make other indoor updates and minor renovations.
This project should be complete in time to open the new Pre-K classroom in August 2022, Kendall said.
They currently serve about 60 children in day care, including eight babies, 10 toddlers and 20 pre-K kids, Kendall said.
Hand in Hand has a new partnership with Edwards Congregational Church in Davenport, providing a summer childcare program there, and they plan to open that for after-school care starting in the 2022-23 school year. They served 50 school-age children last summer, Kendall said.
Hand in Hand received $85,000 in total funding from the Hubbell-Waterman Foundation, Regional Development Authority and Quad Cities Community Foundation for the Bettendorf renovation and expansion work.
“One of the other really cool things that we’re doing is partnering with St. Ambrose Ph.D students for occupational therapy, and they offer their expertise in helping advise us on new technologies — for what are some things that we can bring in to make programs even better,” Kendall said. “And so that is a partnership with the students that we’re really excited to give them that experience.”
The state grant will not be used for staffing, she said, noting that 40% of the agency’s annual budget comes from private, philanthropic support, and Hand in Hand is a provider through Iowa Medicaid.
There’s a growing demand for Hand in Hand services in the past few years, and they are unique in the QC in what they provide, Kendall said.
“I know it’s a huge challenge during the summer. We were full and had a waiting this last summer for families looking for school-age care,” she said.
Hand in Hand offers many inclusive programs, including childcare, school-age care, many evening and weekend recreation programs, an adult Dayhab program, a prom, and camp.
Camp Hand in Hand was the first program offered, in 2000. Mark and Vinnie Smith and Dave and Joanie Steil wanted their children (and other children with disabilities) to have the same opportunities for fun, learning, and recreation as typically developing children. They decided a one week summer camp for children of all abilities would be a good place to start.
Since the first camp in 2000, Camp Hand in Hand has grown into a two-week summer camp that serves 60 campers each July. Campers of all abilities are welcome and are partnered with a buddy.
Hand in Hand will now operate at three physical locations. One in Bettendorf for childcare ages 6 weeks – 18 years. One in Davenport at Edwards Church that provides care for school-age children, and one in Bettendorf on Spruce Hills for adult dayhab. The recreation programs use all three locations, plus others in the community, Kendall said.
The inclusive child care program is licensed by the State of Iowa and has earned a rating of 5 (of a possible 5) on the Iowa Quality Rating System, according to the organization. It participates in the Child and Adult Care Food Program, which ensures participants are served nutritious meals and snacks while in our child care program.
Other QC projects that were approved for the new Iowa funding are:
- Birdie’s Nest building addition, Davenport, $425,507: This will provide four additional classrooms and an indoor gym. The increase in prices related to the pandemic has been a barrier that this funding will help address.
- Blue Grass Presbyterian Church, $11,150: The preschool is making health and safety updates to be open more often and offer full-time care.
- Bright Achievers Developmental Daycare, Davenport, reconstruction for Pre-School Center, $250,000: to serve up to 80 additional children in the community and include a safe playground area. The anticipated outcome is to serve an increased number of children under the age of six, and to assist the educational system in meeting basic early literacy benchmarks.
- Durant Children’s Group Child Care Expansion, $34,274: The Children’s Group owns an empty building across from the current center’s parking lot that will be renovated for another space for children.
- Formative Years Growing and Learning Center, Davenport Building Improvement, $63,000: Renovations that will increase capacity including three additional slots for infants.
- I Care Childcare Childcare Challenge, Burlington, $173,300: Funding will support needed work to improve health and safety for the children and staff at the center.
- Live, Laugh, Love, Child Care Center School-age building project/expansion of the pre-school area, Muscatine, $66,603: This will provide necessary enhancements and increase capacity. The outcome would be a school-age building that would accommodate 40 children.
- Southeast Iowa Regional Medical Center Kid Zone Expansion and Second Site, West Burlington, $801,557: This will support expansion of a current location to serve an additional 50 children. The site will serve the healthcare communities as well as first responders. Construction will begin May of 2022 and will be completed in October.