95.3 / 88.5 FM Grand Rapids and 95.3 FM Muskegon
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Ottawa Co. using ARPA funds to address childcare shortage

Childcare facility
Childcare facility

Ottawa County is taking advantage of federal funding and a commitment to public-private partnerships addressing the areas childcare shortage

In Ottawa County, between the age of zero and five, there’s one childcare slot for every two children. A lack of available childcare is a barrier to job seeking parents and employers in desperate need of workers.

“So, Ottawa County has seen from its business leaders they’ve heard repeatedly that childcare is one of the number one issues they're facing in terms of attracting and retaining talent.”

Travis Williams is CEO of nonprofit ODC Network. Formed in 2000, its mission is advancing outdoor education and conservation. In 2013 it began offering nature-based preschool. It sought a portion of the $57 million Ottawa County received in American Rescue Plan Act dollars to address the issue.

“In total, we asked for $7.5 million in ARPA funds and we had over $30 million in matching funds from area organizations and businesses that wanted to leverage the ARPA dollars to create what would be 1,000 new childcare slots or spaces across the county.”

The Ottawa County Intermediate School District will manage early childhood services. Its assisting with 200 slots dedicated to in-home facilities catering to rural community needs.

Williams says ODC organizing with 11 interested businesses identifying five locations where additional childcare facilities can be constructed. One is the shovel-ready 43,000 square-foot Gentex Discovery Preschool to be constructed on-site at Zeeland-based Gentex Corporation. It will accommodate 250 children for first and second shift workers.

Attracting childcare workers is yet another issue being addressed. The industry has historically underpaid its workers. But from the pool of resources, ODC Network is raising its hourly salary to $18-$20 an hour seeking the most qualified workers.

Patrick joined WGVU Public Media in December, 2008 after eight years of investigative reporting at Grand Rapids' WOOD-TV8 and three years at WYTV News Channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio. As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming. An award-winning reporter, Patrick has won multiple Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter/Anchor awards and is a three-time Academy of Television Arts & Sciences EMMY Award winner with 14 nominations.
Related Content