State Program Helps Companies Pay Child Care
Using $10 million federal ARPA funding for grants, testing if child care coverage helps businesses recruit employees.
As Wisconsin employers continue to struggle to recruit and retain workers, state officials hope a one-year grant program will show businesses that making child care a benefit for their employees is a good investment.
The state Department of Children and Families announced 88 more businesses across the state will be receiving a grant from their Partner Up! program. The $10 million grant program — funded by the federal American Rescue Plan Act — will allow employers to cover the cost of childcare for their employees’ children for one year.
DCF Secretary Emilie Amundson said many employers she’s talked to in the state are interested in providing child care benefits. But she said they’re looking for more security before offering it as a benefit.
“What we’re hoping is that this pilot program provides a little bit of data for the state of Wisconsin to say, ‘This is something that works,'” Amundson said during a Wednesday press conference in La Crosse.
She points to a DCF survey of more than 1,000 businesses across the state last year. It found that 73 percent of respondents, which included business owners and employees, thought employers should offer child care assistance as a way to address labor shortages. That included 65 percent of business owners and 84 percent of employees.
“Child care is the work that allows other work to happen. And that’s why it’s critical that our economy and communities lean into the conversation around child care,” Amundson said.
“We think it’ll make it a better idea for potential state funding moving forward. So that’s the real goal, is to have a system that braids together the caregivers’ responsibility with the employers responsibility and the state,” she said.
Aptiv, a disability and services support organization in La Crosse, is one of the employers who received a grant. CEO Jenny Felty said the funding will allow them to cover the cost of child care for 20 of their employees, some of whom they expect will come from the several open positions they’re currently working to fill. She said the grant will cover 75 percent of the cost, while Aptiv will pay for the remaining 25 percent.
“Caregiving jobs in general right now are very challenging to hire for, and so we are looking for any incentive that might give us some sort of advantage to get employees in here to do this really needed and critical work,” Felty said. “To pay for somebody’s entire child care expenses is just an incredible benefit that the employees who do receive it are just so grateful, because it’s a huge burden off of their shoulders.”
Hickey said one Aptiv employee who is receiving free child care told him they plan to use the money they save on “Food, clothing and saving for (their child’s) college fund.” He said a child care provider that’s benefiting from one of the grants reported being able to raise wages for their teachers, something they hope will help their own business recruit new staff and expand the number of children they can take.
“To me, Partner Up! is an example of how business, families with young children and the child care industry can benefit with new innovative investments and how we can move child care forward in the state,” Hickey said.
Listen to the WPR report here.
Covering child care costs could help employers find workers. A new state grant program looks to test it. was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.