Choice Bank supports ND childcare centers with $250k in grants

This year alone, Choice Bank has supported 12 North Dakota childcare providers with $100,000 in grant funding aimed at easing the strain of daycare shortages in rural areas.

Sonshine Center
Children at the Sonshine Center in Cassleton, ND, pose with a television purchased with daycare grant funding from Choice Bank.
Contributed / Choice Bank
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DICKINSON — Childcare is hard to come by in many parts of North Dakota, particularly rural areas. The coronavirus pandemic exacerbated the scarcity of these services.

Throughout the pandemic the CDC vigorously encouraged widespread shutdowns. In the aftermath North Dakota saw a net loss of 60 licensed childcare providers statewide in 2020, according to the non-profit Kids Count North Dakota. Nationwide nearly 16,000 childcare providers, 9% of the market, permanently closed between December 2019 and March 2021.

In the summer of 2020, Choice Bank launched a program aimed at supporting rural daycares throughout North Dakota. Since then the company has provided more than $250,000 in grant funding to 28 facilities throughout the state. Among them is Bearcat Den in Hebron, which used the funds to pay down debt on its 1,800 sq. ft facility last year.

Choice Bank President Brian Johnson said he started the program after a customer reached out with concerns about the availability of childcare services. Johnson and his team devised a plan to pledge $150,000 to both profit and non-profit daycares that met their eligibility criteria.

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“We didn't want the program to be, you know, just subsidizing hourly daycare rates,” Johnson said. “We’re trying to build up infrastructure and sustainability for the people in the community, because we got really worried from the standpoint that if there's no daycare available, families can have two incomes.”


Johson added that he would love to see other businesses and individuals join in this philanthropic effort. Zach Keller, Choice Bank’s Dickinson branch president, said the deadline for new applications is November 1.

“I'm just happy that we can help with a need that’s prevalent in so many communities and utilize resources in a bunch of different ways; whether it's improving facilities, giving parents in those communities, more options,” Keller said. “Some of the funds have been used for transportation, getting kids to the daycare because that can be a struggle for some parents as well.”

Earlier this month Gov. Doug Burgum unveiled a bipartisan plan that pushes for approximately $80 million in subsidies over the next two years. The plan would expand government funded child care assistance, tax credits and push more employers to offer childcare benefits.

“Workforce is one of North Dakota’s top barriers to economic growth, yet in many cases, parents are having to choose between working and paying for child care, or not working at all,” Burgum said. “Providing better availability to affordable, quality child care will make it easier for working families – especially young families just beginning their careers – to engage in work, provide for their families, help grow our economy and support local businesses and their communities.”

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Jason O’Day is a University of Iowa graduate, with Bachelor’s Degrees in Journalism and Political Science. Before moving to Dickinson in September of 2021, he was a general news reporter at the Creston News Advertiser in rural southwest Iowa. He was born and raised in Davenport, Iowa. With a passion for the outdoors and his Catholic faith, he’s loving life on the Western Edge.
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