BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY - Lee County is one of just three counties to receive part of $500,000 in state rural initiative grants, according to an announcement Thursday.
The state announced a half million dollars in grants out of programs created under Gov. Kim Reynolds' Empower Rural Iowa initiative.
Lee County will receive $10,000 as part of a Rural Child Care Market Study grant program. The funds will be used in conjunction with a $5,000 match that was obtained from Children First of Lee County and Lee County Child Abuse Prevention Council.
"This grant application was a collaborative project and I am grateful such a diverse group of community partners were able to come together and make this happen," said Brianna Kramer-Riesberg, a 1st Five Developmental Support Specialist, and Community Outreach and Development Project Coordinator with Lee County Health Department.
"I'm even more grateful that we have this grant opportunity to continue working together and building on efforts of Children First, child care professionals, Empowering Families, ARPA funds, school districts, and more. We are ready to delve deep into understanding our current child care system and strategizing opportunities to ensure each child has access to quality, affordable, safe child care in Lee County. This includes investigating the needs of the families AND the needs of the early childhood professionals."
Ginger Knisely, Director of Children First, said the study will be integral in efforts to dig deeper into child care issues in Lee County.
"Children First is pleased to be a partner in the effort to have a professional child care market study completed for our entire county. The data gained from the study will assist our board in making funding decisions in response to local needs in a concrete way."
The funds will be used to contract with First Children's Finance in Iowa to help determine the specific needs and solutions for the county's child care issues.
Lee County currently ranks last in the state in the number of cases of child neglect and is in the bottom 10 in terms of reports of child abuse. Several communities are listed with the state as "child care deserts" in determining the number of child care slots compared to the need.
"Rural communities are the backbone of our state, and this latest round of grants will help them tackle tough challenges like housing, childcare, and recruitment," said Lt. Governor Adam Gregg.
"The Empower Rural Iowa initiative looks forward to building on this success and further ensuring opportunity and prosperity are present in all corners of Iowa."
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