County will consider $10M to help child care businesses reopen

County will consider $10M to help child care businesses reopen

Recovery fund would provide grants of up to $250,000

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The Montgomery County Council will vote on whether to provide $10 million in grants to assist child care programs with reopening and recovery from the health crisis.

File photo

This story was updated at 2:15 p.m. on June 15, 2020 to reflect adjustments made to the potential grant amounts by committee members on Thursday.

As Montgomery County reopens, child care centers might receive a financial boost. The County Council is considering offering $10 million in grants to help cover reopening costs and revenue loss from being closed during the health crisis.

Grants would cover one month of expenses until tuition payments are collected. The grants would be up to $75,000 for a single site, $150,000 for two sites, $200,000 for three sites, and $250,000 for four or more sites.

Of the $10 million, $6.5 million would be given to licensed centers and letter of compliance programs. The rest — $3.5 million — would be provided to registered child care homes.

Some child care centers were allowed to stay open before phase one of reopening began in order to serve only essential employees.

Council Member Nancy Navarrro said during the council meeting on Tuesday that the funds would be combined with another $2 million in the Early Care Initiatives budget specifically set aside for the same purposes, making a total of $12 million if the appropriation passes.

“As we are discussing reopening the county, of course, having access to quality, affordable, geographically accessible child care is going to be a key component,” she said. “I can only imagine the stress that parents are experiencing as things are starting to open and they’re having to go back to work, and the notion that maybe your child care arrangement is no longer there.”

Council Member Andrew Friedson said at the meeting that child care programs and centers always operate with financially challenging circumstances — even in the “best of times.”

“We literally cannot reopen our economy and cannot get back anywhere close to the economic standards that support our quality of life and fund our county government and public services, unless we can get child care right,” he said.

A public hearing and vote on the funds are scheduled for the County Council’s meeting on Tuesday.

Under the county’s first phase, child care centers can also serve employees who are able to go back to work. The county’s second phase will expand the number of child care programs allowed to open under certain guidelines. The third phase will allow all child care programs to open for all children, with distancing measures and safety precautions.

To be eligible for the grants, child care programs must be in the county and 60% of the children served at each site must be county residents.

Other qualifications include being able to reopen by Aug. 31, 2020 and provide care to children up to 5 years old. They must be in good standing with the state.

Grants will be prioritized for programs that serve low-income families and children with special needs or are participating in the Maryland EXCELS program.

In addition, any that are in certain ZIP codes with less availability for child care and higher populations of low-income families will be prioritized.

The prioritized ZIP codes are:
● 20877
● 20886
● 20902
● 20866
● 20906

According to a staff report, many child care programs were not eligible for the county’s Public Health Emergency Grant program, which is providing grants of up to $75,000 for businesses and nonprofits.

The PHEG program requires proof of revenue loss in March, but the state did not require certain child care programs to close until March 27.

On Tuesday, the council will also consider public hearing testimony and vote on providing $500,000 to support the creation of the 3R Initiative (Reopen, Relaunch, Reimagine) under the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation.

The initiative would provide technical assistance and grants to retail shops and restaurants for reopening and recovery from the health crisis. The grants would be matched by $250,000 from a private entity and $250,000 from MCEDC.

Another $1.5 million in the county’s Telework Assistance Program was not used and would be transferred to the initiative.

“The regional directors will be providing the outreach on the ground to make sure we can bring this kind of support for direct consultation about how a retail [shop] or restaurant can get back on its feet, as well as a small grant fund for certain expenses that are related to relaunching,” Council Member Hans Riemer said at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Later, the council will vote on $250,000 to create the Maryland Tech Council’s Business Continuity Task Force, which would help small and mid-sized tech and life science businesses with recovery plans during the health crisis.

Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at briana.adhikusuma@bethesdamagazine.com.

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