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Child Care Stabilization Grant Program guidance offers many school-age opportunities

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Child Care Stabilization Grant Program guidance offers many school-age opportunities

On Monday, May 10 the Office of Child Care issued guidance on the $24 billion in funding for the Child Care Stabilization Grant Program created in the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act of 2021. Funds are given to state agencies using the Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) formula and state allocations of funds have been posted on the Administration for Children and Families website. The grant programs will be administered by state CCDF Lead Agencies. The recent guidance outlines the parameters of the grant program for states and tribes including a number of opportunities open to states to support school-age providers, including providers of afterschool and summer learning programs.

Overall program eligibility

Ninety percent of the stabilization program funds must be subgranted to providers. The guidance mentions that this funding can be used in a way to strengthen the child care system, including efforts to support the development and learning needs of children, meet parent needs and preferences, provide high quality care, and support a professional, appropriately compensated workforce. Providers can access these funds in addition to any funds they already do or will receive under the Child Care Development Block Grant.

Eligible providers are all those that were either CCDF eligible, licensed, regulated, or registered by the state as of March 11, 2021, and are able to meet the health and safety requirements at the time they apply for the stabilization grant. Therefore, programs operational in March can be provided with state level funds to help them meet state health and safety standards so that they can become eligible to apply for the program grants. Additionally, providers’ eligibility for these grants is not tied to the eligibility of the children they serve.

The guidance specifically mentions that license-exempt providers who meet CCDF health and safety requirements are eligible. The guidance also encourages states to use this as an opportunity to help more providers become CCDF eligible and meet the standards to apply for the grants (p.10).  

Reporting requirements have yet to be determined but the memo reports they may include zip code, gender, race and ethnicity of director/owner, and the number of providers receiving subgrants, broken down by licensing status and provider type.

School-age focus

The guidance makes a significant effort to encourage states to include school-age providers in their grant programs. A guidance section on “Qualified and Eligible Child Care Providers” mentions, “we highly recommend that lead agencies include center-based and family child care providers and programs that serve school-age children in their subgrant programs” (p. 11).

For applicants

The subgrants require that programs which apply must be in line with local health guidance and CDC guidance where possible, maintain staff pay and benefits for the duration of the subgrant, and provide tuition/co-payment relief for families served (especially those most in need) to the extent possible.

Applicants are expected to base their costs in applying for the subgrants not only on the costs of providing child care during the pandemic, but also “the true cost of providing high-quality child care, including the costs of attracting and retaining a qualified and skilled workforce and the challenges of stable operations under the challenging pandemic landscape (p.14).”

The uses of subgrant funds section includes spending on:

  • Personnel costs, including raising the wages of childcare staff, medical insurance, vaccine access family and sick leave, scholarships and retirement contributions
  • Rent, facilities maintenance and insurance, including renovations to improve social distancing
  • Personal protective equipment, cleaning and other health and safety practices – including resources to fund background checks and health and safety training for providers
  • Equipment and supplies, including software and technological upgrades
  • Goods and services, including food and transportation
  • Mental health services, for children, families and staff
  • Paying for past expenses, including reimbursement for any costs incurred as a result of COVID-19 after the declaration of the public health emergency on January 31, 2020

10 percent administrative set aside

Of the $24 billion, states may set aside up to 10 percent for administrative expenses, supply building and technical assistance. Within that 10 percent, the state can contract with intermediaries to support their work. Statewide Afterschool Networks, intermediaries, and other partners could potentially help support states in this work. The guidance mentions that intermediaries can often help funds get to providers more quickly and, because of their strong connections with the community, often help grants reach a wider range of providers as well (p.16). The money the intermediaries pass through as grants would be counted in the 90 percent.

The guidance also lists a number of uses for the 10 percent set aside that might qualify as supply building and technical assistance. This includes administrative costs associated with increasing the use of grants and contracts, start-up grants, low or no interest loans to increase or improve operations, and efforts to increase access to licensing or participation in the state’s quality rating and improvement system. Set aside funds can also be used for facilities maintenance that increases the supply of child care including improvements that help meet the requirements for regulated child care in the state.

Technical assistance can include funding partners to help communicate the availability of the stabilization grants and help programs to apply. The guidance suggests states consider that some providers will need additional time and technical assistance to put grants together and provider support which may include to consider providing different grant opportunities for different types of providers, to ensure all providers can access the funds.

What’s next

  1. Reach out to your state child care agency to learn about how they plan to design their grant program and remind them of the importance of school-age grant opportunities. Uses of stabilization funds must be included in section 4.1.8 e of the CCDF 2022-2024 state plans due July 1, 2021.
  2. Look for the grants which by law must be posted on the lead agencies website. The guidance recommends grants be simple, available for on-line submission, offered in multiple languages, that technical assistance be provided for those interested in applying and that grants be tracked to ensure they are reaching a broad range of provider types and responsive to parent and geographic need.
  3. State Agencies are expected to have obligated at least half of the CCDF Stabilization funds by December 11, 2021, and 100 percent of funds by September 30, 2022. Funds must be liquidated by September 3, 2023.

A new HHS Office of Child Care toolkit has been established for the Stabilization Grants as well with resources for lead agencies and policymakers already posted, and resources for providers and families coming soon.

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