Tuesday, September 28, Department of Human Services (DHS) Acting Secretary Meg Snead announced the Wolf Administration’s plan to distribute $655 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to stabilize Pennsylvania’s child care industry. Licensed child care providers are invited to submit applications for one-time grant funding that can be used to cover expenses and provide stabilization to this critical industry.
“This is an unprecedented amount of funding that we hope and believe will help these businesses and nonprofit organizations shore up their finances, recruit and retain early childhood professionals, and build capacity to serve more children, especially in communities where working families are struggling to access affordable child care options,” Acting Secretary Snead said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on Pennsylvania’s child care industry – from increased expenses and decreased demand early in the pandemic to the current challenges of staffing shortages and waiting lists for families that need affordable child care to get back to work. Our goal with this funding distribution is to offset those challenges and create a pathway for recovery from this pandemic – not just for child care, but for our economy as a whole.”
DHS partnered with Penn State’s Institute of State and Regional Affairs to develop a distribution methodology that is fair and maximizes the impact of every dollar. At least 90 percent of the total funding will be used to provide grant funding directly to eligible child care providers that submit applications, making approximately $655 million for this funding opportunity.
“OCDEL issued small grants quickly during the onset of the pandemic, while collaborating with the Institute to gather and use quality data to inform later funding decisions. Over multiple rounds of funding, Pennsylvania has been responsive to both urgent needs and emerging research findings,” said Dr. Philip Sirinides, the institute’s director. “OCDEL is now in a position to distribute ARPA stabilization grants through an equitable and data-driven approach.”
DHS has established an online application process. Child care providers have the discretion to use these dollars for a variety of purposes, which include:
- Personnel costs, including for both recruitment and retention efforts, such as sign-on bonuses and pay increases;
- Operational costs, such as rent or mortgage payments, utilities, maintenance, and insurance;
- Health and safety costs, such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), cleaning and sanitation supplies, and staff professional development related to health and safety practices;
- Equipment and supplies;
- Goods and services necessary to maintain or resume child care services;
- Mental health services for children and staff; and,
- Reimbursement for past COVID-19-related expenses incurred after January 31, 2020.
“Early learning center teachers are critical front-line workers working with a vulnerable population — young children who do not yet have access to a vaccine — and our teachers are vulnerable themselves to this dangerous virus,” said Jennifer Ross, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg, which operates the Brenner Family Early Learning Center. “We are truly appreciative of the flexibility we have in how these critical funds can be spent. With ever-changing circumstances, that flexibility is essential.”
Providers will have nine months after their application is approved to use these dollars and provide a report to DHS on how those dollars were used. This one-time funding is available to child care providers with a license in good standing that have been open since March 11, 2021 – or, if temporarily closed, that plan to reopen by the end of September.
“The pandemic exacerbated existing child care challenges with serious economic implications for child care providers, working families and businesses,” said Andrea Heberlein, executive director of the Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission, which collaborated on a report released in June about the economic impacts of COVID-19 on Pennsylvania’s child care sector. “The ARPA child care stabilization dollars are essential for immediate recovery efforts and point to the necessity of long-term reinvestment in this critical two-generation workforce issue.”