The Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) announced emergency grants to 525 childcare centers across their 20-county region. The grants total more than $250,000. In Steele County, 43 providers are receiving a total of over $20,000.

Minnesota's Initiative Foundations created the Emergency Child Care Grant Program at the urging of Governor Walz "to provide immediate relief to child care providers caring for the young children of emergency and essential workers in Greater Minnesota," according to a news release emailed to radio stations.

Rae Jean Hansen, Vice President of Early Childhood at SMIF said in the news release, "For years we have worked to provide trainings for child care providers in quality care, and we have worked with communities to address the child care shortage by helping to create new slots. Now our region and state is facing a new challenge, but our commitment to child care providers remains the same."

Waseca County has 14 providers receiving a total of $6,300. Dodge County has 25 providers getting $11,250. In Rice County $11,400 is going to 23 providers. SMIF serves counties across southern MN from Winona to Mankato.

The news release indicated the program began March 26 with money being awarded over the following two weeks, "The intent was to get immediate support to child care providers experiencing financial strain until a larger source of public funding allocated by the Minnesota Legislature and administered by Child Care Aware could be made available."