Child Care

Children at day care playing with toys. Content Exchange

(The Center Square) – North Carolina will use more than $800 million in federal aid to support child care and learning programs, Gov. Roy Cooper announced.

Cooper has set aside $805 million for a new grant program to help early care and learning programs with recruitment and retention and remain operational through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“High-quality child care and pre-kindergarten are critical building blocks for children’s success in school and for parents who work,” Cooper said Thursday while touring an early learning center in Charlotte. “When we invest in early childhood education, we are investing in the workforce of today and tomorrow.”

Some child care programs have faced significant enrollment shortages, leading to financial loss, industry leaders said. Child care and early learning centers also faced COVID-19-related expenses such as daily health screenings and increased hygiene and cleaning practices. The North Carolina Child Care Stabilization Grants will help child care centers with personnel costs, mental health resources, rent, mortgage, utilities, facility maintenance, personal protective equipment and other supplies.

Rhonda Rivers, the regional director of curriculum and training at LeafSpring School, which includes nursery, preschool and kindergarten classes and a summer camp for children in the Charlotte area, said the funding would help the school provide bonuses for staff to recruit and retain high-quality teachers. The school serves 400 families in Mecklenburg County and surrounding areas. The Cooper administration said families would benefit from having high-quality teachers for their children.

“Child care providers like LeafSpring Schools of Charlotte are working hard to help parents work and raise strong, capable children – and that helps raise North Carolina,” North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said. “These grants will help early care and learning programs recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, stay in business and continue to serve our families, children, and lift up our state’s economy.”

Licensed child care and early learning programs have until Oct. 31 to apply for the program.

North Carolina has directed more than $300 million in emergency funding to child care and early learning programs since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, the Cooper administration said. The NCDHHS issued more than $100 million in grants for child care providers from April 2020 through October 2020.

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