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Columbus child care provider hopes new state grant can help with sustainability

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services announced a $150 million grant for child care providers to manage increased operating costs and hire qualified workers

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Child care is pricey and it’s getting more expensive. It’s one part of the crisis affecting parents across the country.

There are many layers to this as centers are struggling to find staff and keep up with increased operating costs.

However, some progress came this week for providers from the city of Columbus and a program at Columbus State to train and certify more workers for free.

The state also announced a new grant program that will give millions of dollars to eligible providers.

Providers like Eugene Norris at ABC Christian Preschool in Columbus.

Norris said he believes there needs to be a shift in how everyone thinks about education as a whole. With 40 years of educational experience in public schools, he said there needs to be more of a focus on the educational foundation from the very beginning.

"It's a big thing other than just running a service of babysitting and doing a couple of activities here and there,” he explained. “It's more important to society than we realize."

Like many child care administrators, Norris is struggling to find enough teachers.

"I'm competing against McDonald's,” he said.

Norris said fortunately they haven't had to increase tuition, However, child care tuition is going up for parents in central Ohio because centers need to keep the doors open.

According to Columbus-based nonprofit Action for Children, 37% of providers had to increase rates since July. It comes at a time where rates are already expensive.

The average annual cost for care for an infant at a center is more than $13,000. Compare that to The Ohio State University where in-state tuition is about $11,900, according to its website.

Part of the problem: centers can't enroll more kids unless they have more staff and qualified workers are hard to find.

That's what a new $150 million state grant hopes to help with. 

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services is now taking applications for money to help with three things: operating costs, workforce recruitment and child development. It also includes expanding classrooms and increasing resources for kids.

“I'm very excited about the grant because it has three different areas of possibilities and all of them are important,” Norris said.

For Norris, he's writing his application now and hoping to use the funding for recruitment and retention.

“We're thinking about how do we plan for long-term sustainability and look at this grant as a good foundational place to build something that we can continue,” he said.

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