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By Izzie Lund

The Whatcom Family YMCA will be using an $800,000 grant to replace the child care center in Barkley Village and add 24 more slots for children. 

The grant was gifted by the Washington State Department of Commerce, who gives grants to providers throughout the state in order to expand early learning programs, said Bill Ziels, the executive director of the YMCA. 

“There is such a shortage of licensed child care in our state [and] such a demand for it,” Ziels said. “Not only does [the new facility] serve 24 additional [children] but it also sets us up to serve for the next few generations.” 

The new child care center will replace the existing child care center in Barkley, which was supposed to act as a temporary building but has been used for 20 years, Ziels said. He went on to say that the early learning center at Barkley currently serves about 98 children, which will change to 122 to 124 after the new facility is built.

The facility would go into a proposed building with Mercy Housing Northwest, a nonprofit, affordable housing organization. The new building would propose 80 units of affordable housing. 

Ileah La Vora, the senior project manager for the new building, said that it is in the early stages of development. 

Mercy Housing Northwest is currently designing the building as well as applying for permitting and financing, La Vora said. She said that the four-story building is expected to start construction by 2021.

The child care center will be an independently operated program from the YMCA and will be available to the larger community, not just Mercy Housing residents, La Vora said. 

The building’s size and licensing requirements determine how many children the YMCA can serve, Ziels said. He said that since the new building will be larger, they will be able to obtain more licensed slots. 

About 39% of Whatcom County residents are struggling to afford necessities such as child care and housing, according to United Way’s ALICE report. 

Resident Lindsay Baugh has lived in Whatcom County since 2002 and said that she has struggled to get child care for her one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Avery. 

Baugh said that her daughter has a nanny three days a week and that she and her husband both have a day of the week where they work from home. 

“We’ve been on waiting lists for daycares since she was born,” Baugh said. “It’s been a very discouraging experience for us.”

According to a report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, about 49% of parents throughout the state struggle to find, keep and afford child care. 

Lauren Cahill, who lives in Everett, said that she and her husband both work full-time and were only able to afford daycare because she works for the Everett YMCA and was eligible for a discount. 

“[Without the discount], I would not be working because we would not be making enough to cover the child care,” Cahill said. “We would be a single-income family.” 

The Washington State Chamber of Commerce gives out similar grants to child care providers throughout the state as a way of fighting the shortage, Ziels said. 

“I think our community is very pressed for public daycare,” Baugh said. “I think people are just trying to make due and it’s just challenging because there’s so much demand and so little room for these kids.”

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