Grant proposal in West Fargo seeks to tackle both child care and workforce needs

West Fargo City Commissioner Mandy George hopes the proposed program will keep day care providers open, as well as help open new centers.

Members of Girl Scout Troop 337 listen in to the West Fargo City Commission meeting on Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. Commissioner Mandy George submitted a proposal that would allow day care providers in town to apply for a grant that could assist in helping new businesses open or current day cares to stay open.
David Samson/The Forum

WEST FARGO — While parents, employees and other residents are sounding the alarm for help from government officials in finding solutions to the current area child care crisis, a proposed child care workforce grant could provide an answer.

West Fargo City Commissioner Mandy George, along with Economic Development Manager Casey Sanders-Berglund presented the plan to help fund current and new day care operations in the city at the West Fargo City Commission meeting Monday, Feb. 6.

"For years we have heard from the public that we need child care," George said. "With this program, we hope to keep centers open as well as open new centers. I really think this program can make a difference."

Day care providers could apply for the grant which would be paid from the city's economic development sales tax. City leaders have often considered different programs to use those funds.

"We are not proposing financial support for parents for care or financial support around staffing," Sanders-Berglund said. While the city encourages more support discussions at the state level, this grant focuses on assisting West Fargoans and West Fargo-based businesses.


Sanders-Berglund stressed that providers must be in the city of West Fargo, not just in the West Fargo School District. The district encompasses parts of Fargo, Horace, Harwood, Reile's Acres and rural areas.

Grant money would be eligible for improvements such as safety equipment, building security, large motor space equipment and expenses relating to capital improvements to buildings or deemed essential equipment.

Purchasing land, buildings and permits would not be allowed, along with refinancing existing debt, general operating costs or staffing costs.

Child care centers would also have the opportunity for a supplemental award of up to $15,000 in order to fit up an additional infant room.

After 18 months the program would be reviewed for funding, impact and support. Providers would be limited to apply once per location every three years.

The grant idea sparked from a city-wide survey sent to residents revealing how great the lack of child care affects the workforce.

The survey garnered 461 responses to represent about 559 children in West Fargo. Of those surveyed, 104 responses were in the midst of seeking childcare for about 162 children. One primary need in many areas has been child care for infants.

The survey also found that 45% of respondents said their career has been affected by the lack of child care, and 14% actually left the workforce due to not having adequate child care. Another 24% of those would consider rejoining the workforce if child care was available.


"Child care is essential to our businesses because without care, we would lose a large percentage of our workforce," Sanders-Berglund said.

Commissioner Brad Olson on Monday said he wanted to put a cap on the funds available and perhaps put a timeline on the program as a whole.

Eligible improvements for the grant, for example, should be strictly defined, Olson said.

The draft did not do so as "there may be things we haven't thought of that would qualify," George pointed out.

"Do we want to keep it going for 25 years or indefinitely?" asked Olson, suggesting there may be a need for the funds elsewhere.

Mayor Bernie Dardis said he, too, supported setting a limit on how much money could be used for the program.

The City Commission unanimously voted to move the proposal forward, but directed staff to consider additional language in the program materials which will be brought back to the City Commission at its next meeting.

The West Fargo City Commission will meet next on Tuesday, Feb. 21, due to the Presidents Day holiday on Monday.


Readers can reach West Fargo editor Wendy Reuer at or 701-241-5530 . Follow her on Twitter @ForumWendy .

As the West Fargo editor, Wendy Reuer covers all things West Fargo for The Forum and oversees the production of the weekly Pioneer.
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