We are glad to be a part of some excellent news concerning early childcare providers and educators.
CARES Act Funds Will Support Our Economic Backbone: Early Care and Education Programs
A few months ago, Nebraska Children, First Five Nebraska, Nebraska Early Childhood Collaborative, Buffett Early Childhood Institute, and Buffett Early Childhood Fund submitted policy recommendations from early childhood programs and educators to our state and federal officials. Our intention was to confront Nebraska’s early childhood initiative’s crucial struggles in the face of COVID-19.
Early this week, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced that $20M in federal dollars will go toward restoring our state’s childcare foundation in addition to other educational resources for children. Following passage of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) earlier in March, this funding became available with a $3.5B appropriation to the Child Care Development Fund (CCDF).
We are grateful to Governor Ricketts and the DHHS for their support of quality childcare. Early care and education programs are the first step to recreating a solid economic foundation as we rebuild our economy.
Here is an approximate allocation of CCDF Funds:
- Child Care Relief Fund Grants – $267,000: The new injection of CARES Act funds will fund those eligible providers who applied and were waitlisted for the Nebraska Child Care Provider Relief Fund. The relief fund application was released to providers on April 8, 2020 and over 500 applications were received within the first hour. Over 1,000 applications have since been received. This program is overseen by Nebraska Children and Nebraska Early Childhood Collaborative.
- Child Care Stabilization Grants – $8,705,000: One-time grants ($3,000) will become available to home-based childcare providers and center-based programs ($5,500). These grants are designed to cover basic costs including rent, mortgage, staff salaries, disinfecting and protective items, and other professional costs accrued.
- Incentive Grants for Reopening Programs – $1,000,000: These grants are designed to assist the reopening of programs that temporarily closed in response to the pandemic. The stipulations include that providers must remain steadfast in opening within 30 days, partake in quality-enhancing programs, and provide care for low income and essential working families.
- Nebraska Child Care Referral Network – $500,000: This award will support Nebraska’s searchable database of licensed childcare providers and continue to enhance its enhancement. Currently, families may search for area providers based on children’s ages, locations, Step Up to Quality participation, and type. Recently the database was updated to include searchability for Spanish-speaking providers and those who accept children with special needs.
- Afterschool and Summer Learning for School Age Children – $4,000,000: This effort will assist future partnered efforts between Beyond School Bells, Nebraska Children’s expanded learning opportunities initiative and our state’s network of afterschool professionals.
This recent availability of CARES Act funds comes at a welcome time. Nebraska and the rest of our nation expressed worry in response to the pandemic’s economic toll on early educators and programs.
After collecting interviews and data, we heard the worries of our early care providers, who were putting their lives and families on the line every day, only to be impacted with dramatically reduced enrollment, in addition to many other concerns.
The Nebraska Department of Labor has noted that childcare providers ranked as the fifth largest professional population to file initial unemployment claims from March 21 to April 25.
“Nebraska Children is looking forward to the opportunity to partner with DHHS to support licensed early care providers in the state of Nebraska though the CARES Act funding,” said Marti.
“The work that these essential early care professionals have done to support the work force and young children throughout the pandemic has been extraordinary, exhausting and has absolutely impacted this field financially,” she said.
Marti said that Nebraska Children is working with DHHS to develop a process that gets funding to providers quickly, equitably, and with integrity.
“It is Nebraska Children’s intent to communicate timelines and processes to all licensed providers in the next several weeks,” said Marti.
We are thankful to our state and federal government, our Early Childhood team, our Governor and First Lady Shore, and of course you. Without your support, we couldn’t have played a role in facilitating this positive change.