Topeka and Shawnee Co. set to receive more childcare options
TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - “It’s not just in Topeka, Shawnee County, it’s not just in Kansas, it’s nationwide. I read an article last week that there are 22 counties in Kansas that don’t have any childcare openings right now,” Executive Director, ChildCare Aware Easter Kansas, Sarah Elsen recounts.
Childcare providers say they are grateful after receiving a grant that will open 450 new childcare slots in Topeka and Shawnee County.
Childcare Aware of Eastern Kansas and the Greater Topeka Partnership says the child care task force, part of the Momentum 2027 Initiative has been awarded more than $3 million in grant funding to expand the availability of services in Topeka and Shawnee County by creating hundreds of new childcare slots in the community.
“In the last year, our population has grown more than it has in 10 years, so we are growing and our younger population is growing as well so these are the people that are having children. The need for childcare in Shawnee County, if you look at the point-in-time data that is provided by Childcare Aware of Eastern Kansas we have a need of about 5,500 childcare slots that in addition to what we already have so the 450 slots that we are already creating it doesn’t sound like a lot in comparison to that but its almost 10% of the need so we will be creating the largest number of slots of any other community that was awarded this grant in the state of Kansas,” says Director of Business and Talent Initiatives for GO Topeka, Trina Gross.
The funds include $2.7 million from the accelerator grant funds and another $250,000 for the innovative community add-on bringing the total amount to just over $3 million.
The task force will work closely with nine local providers to build one new facility and complete expansions and renovations for the rest.
“A portion of the funds will be used towards construction. We do have 3 projects that are either major renovations or new construction The others are mostly minor renovations but it does also support the operational costs so things like first-year teacher salaries, for the new teachers, not existing teachers but new teachers to fill those new spaces, also things like curriculum and beds for infants, things like that,” Gross says.
Officials say they hope the funds will effectively address the childcare shortage making sure parents have access to safe, reliable, and nurturing care options.
“For towns and cities to stay strong and grow and be economically viable we have to have childcare slots otherwise employees of that family-raising age are not going to be able to go back to work,” says Elsen.
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