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Montana woman honors late mother, opens daycare amid statewide shortage

Cora and her mom
Posted at 7:08 AM, Apr 30, 2024

Longtime Billings resident Cora Veis is opening a new daycare in downtown Billings called Little Llama Learners.

The facility will officially open next Monday at 2906 Third Ave. N. and has seats available.

The opening comes at a time when affordable childcare has been challenging to find in Montana. According to Lending Tree, 22.6% of a Montana family's income is being spent on child care.

That struggle is apparent in Billings. Mckenzie Pirami works at Riddles Jewelry in the Rimrock Mall and said it's been a challenge for her and her boyfriend to find proper childcare for their four-year-old son Elias.

"It's a struggle from week to week sometimes just figuring out what we're supposed to do," Pirami said Monday. "If we could afford to have a one household income and be perfectly fine with it we would."

For their family, and many others, that isn't possible.

"Finding something that is in our means is a struggle," Pirami said. "Sometimes we end up working six days a week, and it's just hard to work around that schedule."

According to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, there are currently 133 childcare facilities in Yellowstone County. Altogether there are 3,132 seats available in all of these facilities combined.

Those limited seats, coming at a time when the city of Billings continues to grow, are one reason why Veis is opening up Little Llama Learners.

"More and more families are starting or moving here and they need somewhere to be," Veis said Monday morning. "I just want to bring something to the community that is good for both parents and kids."

Veis' daycare charges $40 per kid per day. She said she wanted to make it as affordable as possible in a time when many families are struggling. Veis is partnering with Wise Wonders, so the first Friday of every month, her class will visit the museum to take in the sights and sounds.

"I think it's really important to keep kids moving, and we're grateful for their partnership," Veis said.

For Veis, a former teacher who has no children of her own, the opening of her daycare is helpful to parents in her home city and a tribute to her late mother. When Veis was a girl, her mother ran a daycare out of their home, helping many in the Rose Park area.

"When I was born, she decided to open an in-home daycare," Veis recalled Monday. "She just really established herself and it was great for the Rose Park parents and teachers and just that area."

Those fond memories are a big reason why Veis became a teacher in the first place. Now, she's coming full circle and following in her mom's footsteps at a time when her state desperately needs it.

"I kind of looked to the sky the other day and just kind of said, 'I'm doing it,'" Veis said between tears. "I know that she's here and watching and I know that my parents are proud of me."