MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) — According to the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce and the Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville, there is a childcare shortage that needs addressing.
In Madison County, it is estimated that there are 10,000 children in the region who are in need of childcare services and only 6,000 licensed childcare spaces are available.
On Monday, several local agencies got together to announce new grant funding aimed at increasing capacity for childcare and adding additional workers.
The Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville’s Women’s Philanthropy Society is funding two $50,000 grants to address the shortage of trained childcare workers and childcare openings. The recipients of those grants are the Huntsville Housing Authority’s Childcare Project and the Heart of the Valley YMCA’s Pathways to Solutions program.
Quinton Young, the Home Ownership Coordinator for the Huntsville Housing Authority, said he understands what many parents across the region are going through, based on his own experience.
“I’ve experienced having to figure out who’s not going to get paid, or what bill’s going to be late because I need to pay childcare, and there’s kind of no way around that part because if you want to work, that child has to be somewhere,” Young said.
Young emphasized how a stable childcare situation can be a factor in whether or not parents are able to work and pursue certain opportunities. “Somebody might not get the opportunity to chase their dreams and work because of childcare,” he said.
Young said he believes the grant funding will be a good first step for improving childcare access
“Programs like this, and hopefully funding to be able to keep them continuous, are the kind of things that we need to stop talking about and actually create some action,” Young said.
The Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce also announced it is receiving a Workforce Invest Grant from the Tennessee Valley Authority. That grant will focus on adding more in-home childcare centers and supporting existing ones.
“The establishment of four new in-home childcare centers each of those have the capacity of six children” Lyndsay Ferguson, the Vice President of Workforce for the Chamber, said. “We’ll also look to support 12 existing family childcare programs.”
Ferguson said that support will come in the form of developmental supplies and resources, and training through state and national certification efforts.
Alabama House Minority Leader, Anthony Daniels, was in attendance at the announcement on Monday. He said the House plans on taking up legislation that would offer incentives for employers to provide on-site childcare for their employees.
“This piece of legislation will be the number one piece, or the foundation, to really see the state of Alabama move forward in a more progressive way,” Daniels said.
He said there are plans to re-introduce legislation on that topic during the 2024 legislative session.