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Durango, La Plata Economic Development Alliance forming plan for early child care

Organizations seeking state funding to assess area needs
Nikki Krueger writes her name as preschool teacher Cheri Overstreet looks on at Needham Elementary School in 2018. The La Plata Economic Development Alliance is working with the city of Durango to secure state grant funding to conduct a comprehensive strategy of area child care needs. The study would inform the development of a broader child care investment strategy and entails working with other organizations such as the La Plata Food Equity Coalition and the Early Childhood Council of La Plata County. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Child care in La Plata County is expensive and hard to come by, and the lack of access has workers torn between their jobs and their families.

The La Plata Economic Development Alliance is seeking $55,000 in state grant funding to conduct a study that will inform a regional child care investment strategy, and it’s teamed up with the city of Durango to secure the grant.

Durango City Council voted in unison on Tuesday to have Mayor Melissa Youssef sign the economic alliance’s grant application to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.

The city isn’t putting up any matching grant funds or other money for the project. Rather, it’s agreed to apply to DOLA for the grant on behalf of the alliance.

If the grant is greenlighted, the city will provide quarterly reports to DOLA, Durango Community Development Director Scott Shine said at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

The grant being sought is the Rural Economic Development Initiative program grant, which is “designed to help rural communities comprehensively diversify their local economy and create a more resilient Colorado,” according to DOLA.

Economic Alliance Deputy Director Sarah Tober said the grant process is similar to the economic alliance’s efforts to revive the Regional Housing Alliance of La Plata County and to create a catalyst fund for housing initiatives, which was also supported by the city.

She said the economic alliance is also coordinating with the Early Childhood Council of La Plata County and will incorporate early child care data gathered by the La Plata Food Equity Coalition. The coalition has studiously worked with Latinx and Hispanic families regarding their struggles in finding affordable early child care while maintaining their jobs.

La Plata Food Equity Coalition Tiffany Chacon, who specializes in early child care and education, said the number of participants who reported being distracted at work by their children’s needs is up. She said that according to recent studies, that number increased from 59% in 2019 to 68% in 2024.

“Those that had to miss a full day of work due to insufficient child care jumped from 57% to 66%” in the same years, she said.

Workers who had to reduce their work hours grew from 41% in 2019 to 50% this year.

“We know that child care is an issue that is affecting our entire community and we know that we need some … out of the box ideas on how to address the child care crisis that is facing Durango, La Plata County, our state and our nation,” she said.

Tober said she would meet with DOLA representatives later in the week. It should be known by the end of April whether the REDI grant application is accepted.

The study that the grant would fund would ideally be completed by late summer, but certainly by the end of the year, she said.

The RHA voted to support the project. It has placed a request for quotes for a housing needs assessment. The assessment would advance work on addressing the housing crisis and also satisfy part of the REDI grant’s match requirements for the child care investment strategy, she said.

Several Spanish-speaking residents who have worked with the La Plata Food Equity Coalition advocated for the city to apply for the REDI grant on behalf of the economic alliance. Their comments, which described their child care needs, were translated by interpreters for meeting attendees.

Councilor Olivier Bosmans said he supports the project because child care a big concern, and the availability and costs of area child care are not fair to income earners.

“Seventeen years ago when I had my kids, I struggled with day care and I’m sure it’s just compounding and worse now since the pandemic,” Councilor Jessika Buell said.

She said supporting the grant application and a child care investment strategy is “a no-brainer.”

Councilor Dave Woodruff said he is impressed and excited for the project to produce tangible results.


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