HELENA (KPAX) - Gov. Greg Gianforte and the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) announced on Wednesday an investment of $18 million towards childcare innovation grants.

“For too long, Montana’s working families faced a shortage of childcare providers, putting them between a rock and a hard place,” Gov. Gianforte said.

The funding is intended to support 31 childcare innovation grants within Montana. The investment specifically targets childcare deserts, which are defined as areas of elevated childcare shortages. The primary goal of the project is to customize capacity in relation to community needs.

Applicants for the grants were required to address a demonstrated community need, affordability of childcare, increased access to childcare in underserved communities, quality childcare for children, and sustainability of a high-quality childcare workforce and programming.

“We look forward to these numerous projects moving forward to meet existing needs,” DPHHS Director Charlie Brereton said. “We appreciate the careful thought and planning that went into the applications that we believe will make a tremendous difference in Montana.”

The grant amounts range from $142,000 to $1 million and serve Glacier, Gallatin, Missoula, Mineral, Ravalli, Lewis and Clark, Beaverhead, Carter, Flathead, Granite, Yellowstone, Jefferson, Carbon, Deer Lodge, Sweet Grass, Fergus, Judith Basin, Petroleum, and Cascade counties.