Early Childhood Providers and COVID-19: The Nebraska Child Care Provider Relief Fund Delivers Source of Support

Early Childcare Providers: Essential Workers, Essential Services 

Nebraska Children and Families Foundation is aware that in these uncertain times, early care providers are among the most essential yet overlooked workers.  

Without our early childhood programs and providers, risking their health and peace-of-mind every day in the face of a pandemic, the rest of our essential working families would be without childcare. Without safe, quality early care, parents could not work. Without working parents, there would be no thriving economy.  

Our hearts go out to all essential working families who have endured financial and health-related hardships during COVID-19. We recognize that early care providers, who remain a strong and vital thread which ties our community together, have been particularly affected by these unprecedented times. 

Together with our dedicated partner organizations, we have collaborated to offer a form of relief funding for some licensed Nebraska early care providers who continue to serve families despite and because of this destructive pandemic.  

As we still wholeheartedly maintain that every family and child should reach their full potential, during this crisis, early care workers play an even more crucial role in our children’s development and our state’s financial well-being.  

Background on the Nebraska Child Care Provider Relief Fund  

Thanks to the Buffett Early Childhood Fund, Nebraska Children and the Nebraska Early Childhood Collaborative, the Nebraska Child Care Provider Relief Fund was created. This fund provided Nebraska-based, licensed childcare programs and providers with a one-time $1,000 award. These funds were designed to recognize the importance of childcare during this crisis.   
  
For applications to be considered, applicants needed to meet the following criteria as licensed family and center-based childcare programs that were and are open and providing care in statewide locations partnered with Nebraska Children or Nebraska Early Childhood Collaborative. Priority was given to providers who care for the children of essential workers’ families and/or accept subsidy.   

The Early Childhood (EC) team, led by Marti Beard, reallocated $300,000 from existing private funding in Rooted in Relationships and Communities for Kids budgets. An additional $111,000 of private funds was raised. From there, Marti and the team created the Child Care COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund intended to allot $1,000 to each qualifying childcare program.  

The team partnered up with Nebraska Early Childhood Collaborative, who leveraged $250,000 on behalf of the Omaha metropolitan area and surrounding counties. We are particularly thankful to Jenny Skala and Mary Pinker, who managed to identify Community Response dollars to further support providers in COVID-19-afflicted communities. The EC Team and Marti continue to engage providers’ questions, and work tirelessly, energetically, and incessantly on behalf of this hardworking, generous demographic.  

Funding Breakdown: Number of Applications and Outcomes   

The link for applications went live on April 8. Within the first hour, we received 527 applications. As of April 15, as the link was closed, 1209 applications had been received. Here is a breakdown of funding sources:  

  • Nebraska Early Childhood Collaborative funded 150 providers 
  • Nebraska Children Early Childhood funded 302 providers  
  • Nebraska Children Community Response funds helped over 150 providers  

Due to the quick response and overall positive outcomes in obtaining funds for our essential early care providers who play a pivotal role in supporting families and communities, the fund has received attention from the National Early Childhood Funders group.  

Hawaii has even replicated our model with private funds! They have stated our information has saved their state hundreds of hours of planning. See the quote below:  

“Thank you, Marti and Shannon. You’ve likely shaved off hundreds of hours of staff time for us here in Hawaii based on your insights. I can’t thank you enough and I hope to pay it forward if others reach out to me on this or another issue. I’ll be sure to share with you where we land with materials for the fund. Right now, we are looking for a donor that will provide matching funds ahead of standing up the fund, so we don’t have too little in it. Mahalo nui loa.”  

As you can imagine, the review process was competitive and difficult to say the least. In an ideal world, we would have liked to have awarded many, many more applicants.  

We wish the best to all our providers, whether you received funding, and we are happy to say that there are other COVID-19 resources available for early childhood providers and programs.  

The Future of the Fund: What Could Happen?  

There is still more potentially good news concerning the Nebraska Child Care Relief Fund; we are still in the process of acquiring additional funding.  

We will continue to look into alternative funding options for the remaining 400 applications that were not able to be funded. If we successfully secure these funds, we may be able to award those providers who are currently waitlisted. We will let you know if and when we secure additional funds. 

Notes of Thanks: Fund Recipients Respond 

“…This has given me the opportunity to focus on caring for the children in my care whose parents are essential workers.”  

“The words ‘thank you’ will never be enough, but I wanted to send a personal message for you and whatever powers that be who were in the process of selecting providers to receive the relief fund.” 

I own a family childcare, and this has lifted a HUGE stress off of our shoulders. We do our best every day to make the days seem as normal as possible but when you carry stress of finances for a household it is hard. This has given me the opportunity to focus on caring for the children in my care whose parents are essential workers.  

I have a few children not attending at this time and others likely to join but I also care for several nurses so keeping my doors open is imperative for our community. Your support of this is the difference in me being able to stay open, serve our community and provide for my family, or me having to close my doors and seek employment elsewhere.   

In close I, once again, would love to extend my deepest gratitude for this opportunity! 

THANK YOU!!! 

Lacey Ahrens 

Hi I would like to tell everyone thank you for all the hard work you have all done on going thru this grant process and helping so many of us daycare providers out with the funds; this is such a blessing to be able to get it [these funds] will help my daycare out in so many waysso keep up the great work – you all are really appreciated.  

Thank you,  

Angela Runnells 

As childcare providers, we would like to thank you for your efforts and advocacy over the past few weeks. Your leadership in promoting us as professionals and essential workers has increased our confidence in ourselves. Your representation has led to our group finding our voices and beginning to reach out and advocate for ourselves. 

With your commitment and dedication to assisting the childcare providers of the State of Nebraska, we have received countless benefits over the past month’s events. Not only financially, but also socially and emotionally. The Governor’s executive order to allow for enrollment-based billing for subsidy children and the additional grant money offered to childcare providers will assist us with ensuring the continuity of care that we provide for the children of our area. 

Western Childcare Provider Collaborative 

Representing Keith, Lincoln, Red Willow, Perkins, Hitchcock, Dundy, Hayes, Hooker, Thomas, Logan, McPherson and Chase counties  

“Thank you, Marti. I hope we can move forward from the great work you all have done and collectively build on it to create a statewide [child care resource and referral] for NE that works on recruitment and retention of childcare providers, professional development, public awareness for high-quality care and allows families and businesses to quickly locate all licensed childcare in their communities. It is amazing what you all have accomplished in such a short timeline.”  

 Joan Luebbers 

Other COVID-19 Resources for Early Care Providers 

In response to the pandemic’s impact on early care workers, we have also created and are constantly updating a list of links to resources for providers throughout the area.  

This page entails a curated, ever-growing list of links to COVID-19 resources for early care providers including links to healthy practices, links to information about effective sanitizers, information regarding Governor Pete Ricketts’ issuance of Executive Order 20-18,  and a Frequently Asked Questions page.  

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Learn more about Childcare Providers’ COVID-19 Resources 

Nebraska Children and Families Foundation supports children, young adults and families at risk with the overall goal of giving our state's most vulnerable kids what they need to reach their full potential. We do this by building strong communities that support families so their children can grow up to be thriving, productive adults.

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