The recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill) will be used to repair potholes in our nation’s roads and bridges. However, there is a major pothole for kids, families, and local economies that we have yet to address: child care.
Thankfully, the child care sector has gotten some much needed investment via federal COVID relief measures including CRSSA, CARES, and the American Rescue Plan (ARP) to help stabilize the sector. As we head into 2022, additional supports for families, early childhood educators, and child care providers will be available soon via the Kentucky Division of Child Care (DCC).
- Starting January 1, 2022, more Kentucky families will be eligible to receive assistance paying for child care through the Childcare Assistance Program (CCAP). All families living within 200% of the Federal Poverty Line will be eligible for CCAP. This means that a family of three making $43,000 a year would now be eligible for child care assistance.
- Families who received CCAP but now make too much to qualify for the program will receive help transitioning off. Starting in March 2022, families who get a raise or a new job and no longer qualify for CCAP will receive 50% of their CCAP benefits for the first three months they are ineligible. This will give families time to adjust their budgets and help reduce the cliff effect.
- To bolster the early childhood workforce, DCC has expanded the number of trainings available to centers and educators. This includes things like CPR and First Aid training and trainings related to caring for children with special needs and inclusion.
- The Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA) has also increased the number of scholarships available through the Early Childhood Development Scholarship. These scholarships will cover up to the cost of full tuition and fees for eligible early childhood majors attending Kentucky colleges. Interested students can now apply for this scholarship for the Summer and Fall of 2022 semesters.
- DCC also used ARP funds to offer Preschool Partnership Grants to support collaboration between school districts and child care providers. Some 43 grantees were selected for the first round of grants, with a second Request for Applications expected in February 2022.
- DCC will soon be releasing Request for Applications for employee-based child care, family child care homes, and a pilot program to increase the number of CCAP slots for infants and toddlers.
There is currently a lot to celebrate in the child care sector; however, more attention is needed to not only save it from collapsing but build the thriving child care ecosystem that we need for the future. Child care centers across Kentucky face significant workforce and staffing issues. As private sector jobs raise their wages and benefits to stay competitive, child care centers have had a hard time attracting and retaining educators.
While we celebrate all of the much-needed investments that federal relief funds made possible, child care centers continue to face massive challenges and need the ongoing attention of policymakers in Washington DC and here in Kentucky. Much of the good news that we wrote about above is funded through the American Rescue Plan and will end in 2023 if new funding is not made available. Without bipartisan action in DC and in Frankfort, none of the improvements or changes DCC has been able to make with American Rescue Plan funds are sustainable.
We cannot afford to go back to the status quo – child care is too essential. Kentucky families and child care centers need bipartisan action in DC and in Frankfort to maintain this momentum and create a child care sector that works for families, educators, and providers.