Beltrami County seeks to tackle child care crisis with new loan program


A pre-pandemic problem for Beltrami County has now been exacerbated by the consequences of COVID-19: the child care crisis.

Working with Greater Bemidji for more than four years, Beltrami County hopes their most recent collaboration through a grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) can ease not only the stress on the county , but also on the parents.

Due to the childcare crisis, Greater Bemidji and the county came together to find a solution. With nearly 900 slots needed to meet child care needs in the county, the two entities have developed the Special Family Child Care Forgivable Loan Program.

“We want to encourage our economic growth in this area,” said Anne Lindseth, director of the economic assistance division of Beltrami County Health and Human Services. “We have families who want to go to work…they have young children and these children need quality care.

With the Special Child Care License update allowing religious organizations, non-profit organizations, and employers to hold these licenses, loan programs aim to help with expenses such as purchasing and/or renovation of real estate, equipment and supplies, and start-up-related costs such as staffing.

Through this loan program and a public/private partnership, Greater Bemidji and Beltrami County hope this plan will allow employers to retain current staff, expand efforts to recruit new employees, and provide the much-needed childcare slots in the community.

“Whether it’s family child care or child care, they really need some kind of subsidy to make their business…sustainable, but also to make them thrive in their business,” says the assistant director of the Grand Bemidji, Erin Echternach, who also worked with the Minnesota Department of Social Services Child Care Task Force.

Greater Bemidji and Beltrami County are looking to help child care providers for the infant and toddler age ranges. The loans will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, and the total amount that will be distributed as a forgivable loan is $140,000.

The necessary licenses can be obtained from Beltrami County Social Services.

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