Deadlines approach for child care grants

Two deadlines are approaching for grants available to child care providers and communities looking address child care shortages.

Providers looking to access the $53 million available in COVID-19 Public Health Support Funds for Child Care, a program funded through the federal CARES Act and sponsored by the MN Department of Human Services, have until Oct. 14 to apply. Grants are available to help providers cover the cost of safeguarding the health and safety of children and staff for three months. Grants of up to $1,200 a month for family care providers and $8,500 for centers are available for providers who the meet the following criteria:

• Operating on Sept. 15
• Committed to operating through Dec. 15
• License in good standing
• Not found responsible for fraud in the past

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Blandin’s Broadband Conference to take place over 4 weeks

The Blandin Foundation is holding its annual Broadband Conference in a very different way this year. Rather than a usual 1-2 day conference filled with back-to-back seminars and panel discussions, this years’ conference will take place over four weeks. And thanks to broadband, the conference will be 100% virtual.

With the use of a virtual setting and by spreading the conference over four weeks, Blandin is also moving away from a meeting-based conference to more focus on collaboration, community discussion, and mentorship. Opportunities include:

  • Custom meetup/mentoring sessions where you can meet online with potential partners and/or experts in broadband adoption and deployment
  • Learning cohorts (small groups) to connect you with other attendees to bounce ideas and traverse an online event throughout the conference
  • Keynote speakers with the option to ask questions in real time or later, including Shirley Bloomfield of NTCA-The Rural Broadband Coalition, Roberto Gallardo from Purdue Center for Regional Development, Deb Socia from The Enterprise Center, and internationally known author and journalist Thomas Friedman.
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Annual survey DEED/Minneapolis Federal Reserve examines business service firms’ current conditions, future expectations

Each year since 2006, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and the Federal Reserve Bank of Minnesota have conducted a survey of Minnesota business services firms, such as engineers, accountants, architects and others, about their outlook on industry trends and the business climate. The results of the 2020 survey were recently released and hold higher-than-normal intrigue due to the impacts of COVID-19.

Some interesting takeaways noted by DEED include that more than half of respondents (57%) reported a decline in revenue and exactly half of respondents reported a drop in employee productivity due to the pandemic. Nearly half of respondents (48%) said they expect to go back to normal operations in more than six months, while almost one-fifth (18%) said their business will not go back to normal. Continue reading

First Children’s Finance seeks rural communities to partner on child care initiative

First Children’s Finance is looking to partner with communities from Greater Minnesota for their Rural Child Care Innovation Program. The Innovation Program, funded through grants from the Minnesota Department of Human Services, provides funding and technical support to assist communities in developing solutions to increase the supply of high-quality affordable child care.
 
The program aims to:

1) Strengthen existing early childhood care and education businesses, ensuring that children have continuity of care that prepares them for success in school and beyond,
2) Expand the availability of quality child care by creating new and innovative community solutions, and
3) Increase the regional and statewide awareness of early care and education’s role in rural economic development.
 
The program requires a community’s commitment of 18-24 months.
 
More information, including how to apply, is available at https://www.ruralchildcare.org/ or join in a webinar on Sept. 15 from 1:30-2 p.m. Click here to attend

New website provides access to Minnesota’s ‘COVID-19 checkbook’

Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) launched a new webpage this week that outlines the state’s COVID-19 financial status. The Minnesota COVID-19 Checkbook provides direct access to budget and payment information as it relates to COVID-19-related funding. The figures are updated daily based on accounting data and actual agencies’ revenue and expenditure transactions. The checkbook includes both state funding and federal dollars, totaling over $2.5 billion. Currently, the state has spent more 90% of those funds on numerous pandemic response efforts.  

Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition launches statewide speed test initiative

COVID-19 has shown how important access to broadband is for every Minnesotan now that we are being asked to work, learn, or receive care from home. Broadband is no different than any other basic utility that people need. It is an essential part of our daily lives.

The Minnesota Speed Test Initiative wants to find out exactly where broadband service is available in Minnesota and what speeds households and businesses are receiving. A pilot program for speed testing is ongoing in St Louis, Koochiching and Itasca counties. The Range Association of Municipalities and Schools has been leading the way to create a different set of broadband maps based on approximately 7,000 broadband speed tests submitted by area residents and businesses. These speed tests, mapped by GEO Partners, clearly show the speeds available in cities and townships across the three northern Minnesota counties.

We encourage you to take the test at mnruralbroadbandcoalition.com/speedtest, and share it with others in your community as well. Continue reading

Reminder: Call for Border to Border Broadband Grant applications

Information provided by the Minnesota Department of Employment & Economic Development and the Office of Broadband Development:

The Office of Broadband Development (OBD) wishes to remind all potential broadband grant applicants for this year’s 2020 grant round that – prior to submitting a broadband grant application – every applicant must contact all existing wireline broadband providers in the proposed project area.  This pre-application outreach requires each applicant to include a description of the proposed project and a map of the project area with the written outreach.

Under current law, this must be completed no later than six weeks prior to the grant application deadline of September 30, 2020.  That makes the last allowable date for written (email) outreach to all existing providers in the project area to be August 19, 2020. Continue reading

Report says wages go farther in Greater Minnesota

The maps show that once the cost of living is factored in for monthly wages, Greater Minnesota residents are spending a smaller percentage of their monthly wages on cost-of-living expenses.

Comparing wages across the state of Minnesota often shows that Greater Minnesota communities have lower median monthly wages. However, this may not show the whole picture. The Center for Rural Policy and Development recently published an article titled “Wages can go farther in greater Minnesota.”

This study found that when comparing wages to cost of living by region, counties in western and southern Minnesota have a much lower cost of living than their metro counterparts. This makes their monthly cost of living a much smaller percentage of their median monthly wage. According to the study, central and northeast Minnesota have more low-paying jobs and a slightly higher cost of living than the rest of Greater Minnesota. Continue reading

Apply for broadband grants

The Office of Broadband Development (OBD) is soliciting applications for Border-to-Border Broadband grant funding of broadband infrastructure projects.

The application deadline is 4 p.m. on Sept. 30. Application submittals must be via electronic documents in Microsoft Word and PDF formats on a USB drive. Application proposals must be mailed to:

Office of Broadband Development
MN Department of Employment and Economic Development
First National Bank Building
332 Minnesota Street, Suite E200
St. Paul, MN 55101-1351

For questions regarding the application process, contact OBD staff at 651-259-7610 or deed.broadband@state.mn.us.

Governor Walz issues statewide mask mandate

Today Gov. Walz announced Executive Order 20.81 a statewide mandate requiring people in Minnesota to wear face coverings in public indoor spaces and indoor businesses. Masks are also required in outdoor spaces where social distancing is not possible. The order will go into effect Friday, July 24 at 11:59 p.m. Children under 5 years old and those with a disability or medical exemption are excused from the mandate.

As of today, 28 states in the country have implemented similar mask mandates. Gov. Walz said the goals of the executive order are to prevent overwhelming the healthcare system, keep businesses open, get kids back in school, and get closer to physically interacting with elderly relatives. More than 20 cities and local governments in Minnesota had imposed their own mask mandates before the Governor’s executive order, and local governments can still choose to impose stricter restrictions than the state mandate. Continue reading