Advance TRF Childcare Collaborative member, Michelle Landsverk, recently had the opportunity to interview Tabi Steinmetz, Program Officer for Northwest Minnesota Foundation. The following is excerpted from their conversation.
Landsverk: Welcome to this episode of Profiles in Childcare, Tabi.
Steinmetz: Thanks for having me, Michelle.
Landsverk: We’re excited to hear from you and learn about the program that you administer at Northwest Minnesota Foundation. So, tell us a little bit about yourself, how long you’ve been working with Northwest Minnesota Foundation, and what your role is with the childcare finance program.
Steinmetz: I am a Central Minnesota native that married somebody in this area. We’ve lived in several spots throughout Northwest Minnesota. Currently my husband and I live in Cass Lake with our two daughters, so I’m no stranger to the perils of finding quality childcare! I joined Northwest Minnesota Foundation almost six years ago, back in 2017. I am a program officer on our community revitalization lending team, and I am also the lead for our childcare finance program.
Landsverk: So, what is Northwest Minnesota Foundation hoping to accomplish with its childcare finance programs? What are the program priorities?
Addressing a Critical Childcare Shortage
Steinmetz: Well, back in 2018, we took a look at needs in our region and asked ourselves what we could do to address this critical childcare shortage. It’s been an issue that’s barred people from coming to our region. We wanted to find a way to counteract that. A group of us got together, started planning and thought, “maybe we can offer some financial assistance for beginning childcare providers and current childcare providers.” Our number one priority is to address the critical shortage of childcare. We also want to increase quality childcare, increase business acumen of our childcare providers, and help retain our current childcare providers.
Landsverk: I think these programs are so valuable and I’m so glad that Northwest Minnesota Foundation identified this need and is focusing on the business side of childcare. What are the terms for these finance programs?
Steinmetz: We have two different pieces of our childcare finance program. The first is our forgivable loan program. That’s for any childcare provider in the process of getting their license or those who have received their license within the last six months. These loans can be used for just about anything: a repayment for things that a provider has already purchased for opening up, additional supplies, curriculum, or education. Probably the biggest thing we’re seeing is people borrowing for bigger items like fences, egress windows, things to make their childcare space safer, or items needed to pass their fire marshal inspection. There’s no interest, no collateral, and the loan is forgiven in monthly installments over five years. We also have low interest loans that are available for new providers and current providers. These two loans can be used in combination.
For In-Home Providers and Centers
Landsverk: I really appreciate you supplying the examples that you did. It helps to show the types of things that people can use the financing for. Is there anything else that you think people need to know about the childcare finance program?
Steinmetz: One thing I’d like to mention is that this program is open to both in-home providers and childcare centers. We’ve helped people throughout the two tribal nations and twelve counties that we serve.
To Apply or Learn More
Landsverk: So, if anyone is interested in contacting you for more information how would they go about that?
Steinmetz: So, there are a couple different ways. Most people go to our website, www.nwmf.org. There is an application available there. People are also welcome to contact me directly via phone or email or they can just stop into our office if they happen to be in Bemidji. We also have paper applications if someone isn’t able to use the online setup.
Landsverk: Thank you so much, Tabi, for sharing your story with us. That’s Profiles in Childcare brought to you by the Advance TRF Childcare collaborative. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, @advancetrfchildcare and on YouTube, @AdvanceThiefRiver.
More About Profiles in Childcare
“Profiles in Childcare” is a series of stories, highlighting the people who are working in, and for, childcare in our region.
These stories are being collected and published by Advance TRF Childcare Collaborative.
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