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New Ulm EDA tries to help ease childcare shortage

NEW ULM — The New Ulm Economic Development Authority (EDA) us acting on multiple items to assist area childcare providers.

The childcare shortage has been a national problem that impacts the ability of parents to work. The EDA has been seeking methods to alleviate the problem by growing the number of childcare providers in New Ulm, while also maintaining providers currently working in New Ulm.

The EDA was selected to receive a grant from the First Children’s Finance Minnesota Rural Child Care Innovation Program (RCCIP).

The RCCIP is designed to increase the supply of high-quality affordable child care in rural communities. The purpose of the program is to guide communities in identifying the scope and size of their childcare challenges and to empower and support communities to develop solutions to address these challenges.

Participation in this program will help plan community education and provider appreciation events, identify resources, provide us with a thorough analysis of our childcare gaps and needs, and develop an action plan to increase the supply of childcare spots.

The grant covers First Children’s Finance staff time to lead the community through the 18-24 month program at no cost to the EDA.

Board member Les Schultz asked how much control the EDA had over First Children’s staff time. He said the EDA a preliminary idea and wanted to know if staff would help push these measures forward.

City Manager Chris Dalton said they could ask if the staff was willing to take additional direction from the board.

Later in the meeting, the board approved a request to fund training for childcare substitutes.

Mayor Terry Sveine is working with the staff at the C.A.S.T. (Community and Seniors Together) office on a proposal to recruit the active senior community into becoming childcare substitutes.

The idea is seniors will go to childcare providers’ homes as substitutes to allow providers to do tasks they need to complete during the day.

The mandatory training costs $120 per person. Sveine asked the EDA pay for the training cost for those who are interested in pursuing this opportunity.

How many seniors will participate is unknown at this time. The cost to train 10 people would be $1,200.

Schultz was willing to support the program and offered a motion to approve paying training costs up to $3,000, with a second from board member Jessica Janni.

Later in the meeting, Dalton gave an update on a plan for providing insurance for daycare providers. The EDA discussed the option of creating an insurance consortium for providers. Dalton said this is only possible if the providers found an association other than getting insurance. If they created a support group that bought supplies together an insurance provider might agree to provide coverage for the group.

“This is not a dead avenue; it’s just a long road,” Dalton said.

Schultz said part of the issue is daycare providers struggle to afford insurance. He suggested the EDA create a rebate program. He requested the rebate option be placed on next month’s EDA agenda.

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The board approved a $25,000 match funding to help the Career Technical Education (CTE) Center with purchasing industry-standard equipment.

New Ulm Public Schools is preparing to establish a regional CTE Center. The center will provide students and adults with education in the areas of manufacturing, machining, construction, automotive repair, small gas engines and autobody repair. The center will provide hands-on learning and provide opportunities for adults who may be considering a career change.

New Ulm Public Schools has established partnerships with local industries and businesses and other partners to develop plans, garner ideas and pool resources. New Ulm Public Schools requested financial assistance of $25,000 to purchase equipment.

The EDA has previously helped fund the CTE Center and expressed a willingness to fund it further if needed. Schultz said this is something we strongly support.

Janni made the motion to start with $25,000 and if more was needed, the school could make a further request. Schultz seconded the motion. It was unanimously approved.

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The payment standards for the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program were approved by the board. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issues new fair market rents (FMRs) for each county on an annual basis. The FMRs are gross rent estimates that include rent and tenant-paid utilities.

The new FMRs set by the federal government are $589 for a 1-bedroom; $757 for a 2-bedroom; $975 for a 3-bedroom and $1,215 for a 4-bedroom. All four vouchers have increased with the 4-bedroom increasing the most by $161.

Housing Coordinator Heather Bregel said it is rare to see a 4-bedroom voucher in New Ulm. Those are only for seven to eight-person households. Most vouchers are for 1-bedroom or 2-bedroom.

Bregel said most years they set the payment standard at 100% of the FMR set by the federal government, but this time she was recommending a 110% payment standard for the 1-bedroom voucher. This would raise it to $647 for a 1-bedroom.

Bregel said an analysis of the program showed those with a 1-bedroom voucher are paying an average of $640 for rent. For this reason, she recommended a higher standard for this voucher. It was noted these rent payments also cover utilities.

The public housing flat rents were also approved. In the public housing, program families pay 30% of adjusted income for rent and utilities. The family has the choice of paying flat rent or income-based rent. Staff recommended increasing the flat rent to match FMR.

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Under EDA claims, there were extra costs for pest control. There was a $1,200 cost from Plunketts for a sweep of Broadway Haus’s 40 units. There were two units on the sweep that required heat treatment for bed bugs that cost $2,400. Follow-up inspections will be necessary.

Bregel was confident Broadway Haus was on the tail-end of the beg bug problem. When bed bug problems are detected additional spraying is issued. Further chemical treatment is being conducted in the common rooms.

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