Council approves emergency childcare funding

Money to go to worker retention bonus program

The City Council of Webster City met via Zoom Monday and after a delay due to some sound issues, the council voted to approve an emergency infusion of $25,000 to help fund a childcare worker retention program.

The funding was first requested at the Nov. 16 council meeting. McKinley Bailey, executive director of Building Families, explained that his agency is the Early Childhood Iowa area board for Hamilton, Humboldt and Wright counties. He gave a presentation to council on a proposed childcare worker retention bonus program.

Bailey said that over the past three years or so, the childcare situation in Hamilton County has been a “slow, simmering crisis,” including issues with the economic structure of the childcare system in the state.

He said that as the COVID-19 crisis has continued, the childcare situation in Hamilton County has worsened.

There are two centers in Webster City. One is at half capacity and the other is at nearly half capacity.

The reason for that is staffing, according to Bailey.

“They have the space for additional children, but they cannot staff it,” he said. “That’s because their starting wages are about $8.50 per hour. And at $8.50 per hour, you can’t compete for labor with McDonald’s, you can’t compete for labor with Kwik Star. “

City Manager Jeff Sheridan told the council that the need for quality, reliable daycare in Webster City is “undeniable and an important part of the economic future of our community.” Sheridan said while he agreed with the need to contribute the $25,000, that a long-term solution could not continue to be funded mostly by local government.

Councilman Brian Miller asked why the request for the city was more than what Hamilton County had pledged. He suggested the council match the county’s contribution.

Bailey said that the figure reflected the fact that Webster City’s daycare facilities have more staff and more children enrolled than at the county’s two facilities — The Mighty Trojan Daycare in Blairsburg and Stratford Early Childhood Center. He told the council Nov. 16 that there about 30 childcare workers who work the number of hours to be eligible for the retention bonus, with 22 at Webster City centers.

“But we would be happy to receive whatever you would like to contribute,” Bailey told the council.

The council voted to fund the requested $25,000.


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