SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – Gov. Kristi Noem recently delivered ceremonial checks to different child care centers across the state as a part of the Child Care Expansion and Startup grants. 

In January, Noem approved $12.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to help registered or licensed child care providers either start a new facility or expand a current one. The money is distributed by the Department of Social Services. 

According to the Department of Social Services, the expansion and startup grant awards are based on the number of children in the facility. Family and group family day cares with 12 or less children can receive anywhere from $55,000-$150,000. Child care centers with 13-49 children are eligible for up to $375,000 in funding. Centers with 50-99 children are eligible for $600,000, centers with 100-149 can receive up to $800,000 and centers licensed for more than 150 children are eligible for $1 million in funding. Before and after school programs can apply for funding up to $400,000.

KELOLAND News reached out to these child care providers to see how they plan to spend the money and what impact it will have on their facilities, staff and parents.

Little Tykes University, founded in 2014 by Corri Poore, received $800,000 to go towards the startup of a third child care facility in Sioux Falls. 

“This grant gives us the running room we need to be able to offer quality care,” Poore said. “That startup cost is tremendous, so it makes it where we don’t have to pass on this huge cost to our parents through huge tuition.”

Poore said the money will be used for curriculum advancements, safety measures like smoke alarms and sprinklers, playground equipment and payroll for staffing. 

The new Little Tykes facility has been open for three months and they already have 35 of their 100 student capacity. Poore says now that the grant money has come through, Little Tykes will be able to open up more classrooms and start filling the rest of the child care spots, as well as hiring new staff.

Kingdom Kids at Celebrate Church and Little Tykes both received expansion and startup grant money.
Kingdom Kids at Celebrate Church and Little Tykes both received expansion and startup grant money.

Kingdom Kids through Celebrate Church received $395,421 to help with the startup of a new day care. Kingdom Kids just finished the first year of its new preschool and the day care will be open no later than September 5. 

Debra Walsh, the kids ministry director at Celebrate, said the grant money will help the church reach more families who are struggling financially and provide a foundation of Christian teachings to the community.

“Our church is very passionate about helping children to learn the skills they need as they grow in life, but also to learn about God and Jesus along the way to give them that strong foundation,” Walsh said. “We knew that was something that was very much needed in our community. Child care, it can be expensive, and ensuring that you have good safe materials, good quality learning, that all adds up financially.”

Walsh mentioned the high need in the state for child care programs and the issue with staffing those facilities. Kingdom Kids will also use a portion of the grant money to help staff the day care. 

“Across the state and other states as well, there’s a child care crisis and it’s not necessarily that the other providers don’t have openings for kids. It’s hard for staffing,” Walsh said. “We’re utilizing the grant to ensure that we can staff appropriately and have a space that is designed for excellent learning and providing support for our families.”

Carli Bunger, owner of Union Little Childcare in Madison, also noticed the need for child care in the state after she had her own child last year. After teaching first grade for five years, Bunger decided to become her own day care provider to address that need. Union Little Childcare received $40,576 of ARPA funding. 

Bunger said she will use the grant money to update the spaces in her basement to be more child friendly along with adding a fence and playground to her back yard. 

“This just creates another childcare option here in our community and not only just an option, but a quality one,” Bunger said. “The money will really help in strengthening my space and strengthening the things that I can get for the children and opportunities I can give them.”