CALUMET COUNTY (WLUK) -- The high cost of child care has been a nationwide issue for years, and the current labor shortage hasn't been helping.
However, one area county is using federal pandemic aid to recruit child care workers.
At Play & Grow Learning Center in Sherwood, the past year has been one of the more challenging for hiring staff.
“We're not only competing with other child care centers, now we're competing more with Home Depot and restaurants that are struggling for staff as well,” said Jason Hodkiewicz, owner of Play & Grow Learning Center.
To help with child care hiring, Calumet County's board of supervisors recently approved spending $689,783, or about 7 percent of the county's $9.72 million from the American Rescue Plan.
“It got worse during the pandemic because of course providers needed to close, etc, periodically,” said Mary Kohrell, Calumet County Economic Development Director.
The money will be used to cover entry-level training and hiring expenses, child care discounts for staff, up to $1,000 sign-on bonuses, and quality support specialists to assist the 18 facilities in the county.
All seven group child care centers and 11 in-home centers in the county are eligible to receive money. They will be reimbursed as eligible expenses are made.
FOX 11 asked whether the incentives will be enough to entice people to enter the child care field, considering the current labor shortage.
“We certainly hope so,” said Kohrell. “That is our intent. We're not going to know until we try.”
Calumet County came up with this plan with help from Child Care Resource & Referral, an agency that also covers Green Lake, Outagamie, Waupaca, and Winnebago counties. The plan is being pitched to them as well.
“I don't know if they're considering it, but we're certainly sharing information and proposals with them,” said Judy Olson, Child Care Resource & Referral Executive Director.
“The biggest challenge is trying to increase the rate of pay for our teachers without having to drastically increase the rates that we're charging our families,” said Hodkiewicz.
Hodkiewicz hopes other counties approve similar plans, especially considering he has three locations outside Calumet lines.