Grand County Commissioners approved awarding $100,000 in grant funds to local nonprofit Moab Community Childcare.

The money comes from Utah’s Rural County Grant, which was established under Senate Bill 95 in 2020. It provides for grants to be distributed for business and workforce development and infrastructure and capital facilities improvement for business development. Grand County’s Economic Development Advisory Board has identified childcare as an economic development priority, and worked with local childcare providers to determine how best to support and expand childcare in Grand County. Moab Community Childcare’s mission is to support both existing childcare providers and the establishment of new providers in Grand County.

Moab Community Childcare’s grant application explains that lack of available childcare impedes economic growth by preventing parents from working full time.

“We estimate there are perhaps several hundred parents in the Moab Valley that would be able to work if they had childcare,” the application says, adding that if 200 more adults joined the workforce earning an average of $40,000 a year, they would add $8 million to the local economy.

Currently, according to Moab Community Childcare, there are 130 full-time childcare spots in the valley, but the Department of Workforce Services estimates a demand for 465 spots for kids under age 6.

The EDAB held round tables with most of the area’s 10 childcare providers to understand their needs, and found that providers are stressed and struggling to hire more staff. Accordingly, Moab Community Childcare developed a plan to help stabilize and in some cases expand existing childcare organizations, while also supporting the creation of new childcare facilities. Moab Community Childcare has full time staff who can split their work hours among various providers, boosting staffing throughout the week as needed. The nonprofit will also assist local childcare providers in qualifying for grants and subsidies.

Moab Community Childcare has already begun offering staff hours to local childcare providers, and has received positive feedback.

“It feels great to have support and not feel alone,” Amy Allen of Wiggle Worms Daycare told Moab Community Childcare. “The children have been able to participate in fun arts and crafts that would be too messy without the help. I have also appreciated the schedule and organization help.”

Moab Community Childcare also plans to offer financial assistance for facilities upgrades, and to continue to host round-table events where providers can network.

In pursuit of the creation of new childcare spots, Moab Community Childcare plans to partner with organizations that may be able to offer facility space free of charge; use grant money to create new childcare centers; subsidize sublets to new providers; assist in-home providers; help new providers through the licensing process; and pay existing providers to mentor new ones.

The nonprofit has supported the establishment of two new providers it expects to be open later this summer or early fall: the Childcare Center at Synergy will be hosted at a house next to and owned by the Synergy Company, offering 24 spots; the Childcare Center at the Lutheran Church has permission to use the church rent-free during the week, and will add another 24 spots.

Economic Development Department Director August Granath said he learned a lot from the community engagement process.

“One thing that’s been really cool about this experience—having these round tables with existing providers—was coming in with the assumption that the goal would be to increase supply most directly, and then coming out of those conversation realizing that we need to make sure that existing providers are cared for, feel supported, and are not burning out,” he said. “It’s way easier to lose spots than to gain spots.”

“We’re really excited about this; there’s huge buy-in from the board,” said Ben Alter, economic development specialist for the county.