- Associated Press - Sunday, December 25, 2016

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) - Williston officials say a program to support licensed child care operators during a time of skyrocketing births is long overdue.

Commissioners in the oil patch city of North Dakota have approved a plan that would support licensed operators by using $25,000 from a special city fund that was creating with a 1 percent sales tax.

“The annual number of new births in Williams County is staggering, and it continues to grow,” Williston Economic Development Director Shawn Wenko told the commission. “Even if half of these families choose to call Williston home, we are looking at some serious child care shortages in the future. It will definitely affect the workforce dynamics.”

Births recorded at CHI St Alexius Health in Williston have doubled since 2007 and there were 882 births in 2015. Similar numbers are expected this year, the Williston Herald reported (https://bit.ly/2h2XcSH ).

Although significant funding has been directed toward new child care operations, city officials say they have failed to addressed the current licensed providers.

“We didn’t have any incentive program that would encourage them to relicense or encourage them to grow their capacity,” Wenko said.

The new plan allows licensed operators to apply for up to $1,000 in annual assistance, including a maximum of $350 for licensing costs, as well as up to $200 in matching funds for equipment or curriculum upgrades, up to $250 for infant care and up to $200 based on the number of years the provider has been in business.

Wenko estimated there are 30 licensed providers currently handling the care of 650 children. City officials are worried that the number of unlicensed providers will continue to increase.

“One thing about this, I don’t know any other city in the state that has a comprehensive program that addresses the licensed and new providers, so this is something we would be a leader on,” Wenko said

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Information from: Williston Herald, https://www.willistonherald.com


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