DES MOINES, Iowa — $30 million in federal funds for childcare are not coming to Iowa after the state failed to apply for a grant. However, the reason why the state never sent in its application depends on who you ask.
Alex Murphy, the communications director for Gov. Kim Reynolds’ office said the state didn’t send in the application because it didn’t want to have to pay to receive federal money.
“Department of Health and Human Services leadership and the Office of the Governor recommended using existing funds for some of the proposed projects rather than supporting the federal grant application, which would require a $3 million state match and would withhold $1 million for administration,” Murphy said.
However, state Sen. Claire Celsi believes the application was never sent because DHHS director Kelly Garcia was too overwhelmed to send it in. Celsi said Garcia explained what happened to Early Childhood Iowa, the organization which prepared the grant application.
“She basically said that she hadn’t had time to review the application, and because of the lack of time to review the parts and pieces of the grant, she was not going to let it go through,” Celsi said. “Jaws just dropped at that point because many of these folks had been working on this grant for a very long time getting it ready to go.”
According to Celsi, who once served on the ECI board and remains in close contact with its members, the grant would have covered pay raises for childcare staff and mental health care for children.
“It’s a very taxing job. Both mentally and financially, you’re just always working paycheck to paycheck to pay your bills as a provider,” Celsi said. “We haven’t done enough as a state to support our providers and support our families that need childcare.”
In his statement, Murphy said Iowa’s Department of Health and Human Services still has $175 million in federal funds available for childcare even without the $30 million grant.
The state may try and fill the gap left by the unreceived grant with American Rescue Plan funds.