CHEDA's Hoiseth encouraged by 'much more robust' talk on child care

Mike Christopherson

The growing number of regional and statewide organizations adding their acronyms to an expanding list of stakeholders who seem to be more determined than ever to take bold steps to reduce the child care shortage in rural Minnesota communities has CHEDA Executive Director Craig Hoiseth, who’s been involved in the local discussion over the past few years, feeling especially encouraged these days.

Noting what the Greater Minnesota Partnership and Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities are hoping to accomplish in the form of legislation and/or funding approved by the legislature this year, Hoiseth noted the continued efforts in recent years of organizations like Crookston-based Tri-Valley Opportunity Council as well as the Northwest Minnesota Foundation in Bemidji and Bagley-based First Children’s Finance Fund. The latest announcement of the Minnesota Small Business Development Center getting involved can only help, he noted.

Of course, talk only goes so far. It’s money and significant financial investments that are going to move the needle. An influx of dollars into Minnesota from the federal CARES Act passed earlier in the pandemic, coupled with American Recovery Program funds, has made the talk “much more robust,” Hoiseth said, specific to “actual funding mechanisms that could result in child care facilities actually becoming possible in Minnesota.

Although a big chunk of local money would still be necessary in order to make, say, a child care center a reality in Crookston, Hoiseth said the efforts of the non-profit group trying to make “Crookston’s Little Pirates” child care center a reality here can only be boosted by the increased talk and increased funding potentially available.

“I know the City of Crookston is committed. The CHEDA Board is committed. All of the above-mentioned partners and stakeholders are committed,” Hoiseth told the Times. “We welcome and will certainly try and take advantage of any financial support tools being offered from the state. We are fortunate to be so far down the path with all of the work that has been put in over these past few years, (that) our application for possible funding will be all the more compelling.  I'm more convinced than ever that working together we can achieve a successful solution in reducing our child care shortage.”

His “so far down the path” reference relates to local efforts to address Crookston’s child care shortage dating back to at least 2018. That year, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar in a visit to Crookston had her ear bent by local officials saying the rural child care shortage was fast becoming a crisis. The senator from Minnesota, in turn, made it a significant part of her message when she ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.

Despite the lack of major dollars coming through the pipeline to Crookston to address the problem in a major way, Hoiseth said local agencies and stakeholders have refused to let the issue be moved to the back-burner. He noted that the area’s legislative contingent in St. Paul, Deb Kiel and Mark Johnson, have continued to be supportive of the cause.

While bold steps in the right direction have potentially big things happening on the child care front in neighboring communities like Warren and Fosston, Hoiseth said that those behind Crookston’s Little Pirates continue to meet weekly, trying to zero in on a location and crunch the numbers so they add up to a child care center operation that’s financially sustainable.

The Crookston City Council, with the child care shortage in mind, appropriated some dollars to CHEDA, and the CHEDA Board, in turn, targeted $50,000 at child care. That amount was leveraged by a $30,000 NMF grant, and support from Otter Tail Power Company and Halstad Telephone Company, Hoiseth noted. Some of that money went toward a loan that helped make Crookston’s newest child care provider, Gotta Love Kids, a reality downtown, and the remaining funds are focused on helping Crookston’s Little Pirates continue to make progress.

“We have tremendous partners,” Hoiseth said.