Many child care programs in Maryland have remained closed throughout the coronavirus pandemic, except for those allowed to stay open to serve essential employees.
Soon, some in Montgomery County can seek financial relief from a recently approved $10 million grant fund.
The County Council on Tuesday unanimously approved an Early Care and Education Initiative Recovery Fund to provide grants to child care programs that need assistance to reopen and recover financially.
Centers and programs with one site can receive up to $75,000. Two-site and three-site programs can receive up to $150,000 and $200,000 in grants, respectively. Up to $250,000 will be given to programs with four or more sites.
Of the $10 million, $6.5 million will be given to licensed child care centers and letter-of-compliance programs. The remaining $3.5 million will support registered family child care homes.
Eligibility requires providing child care to children from birth to 5 years old and being in good standing with the state.
Council Member Nancy Navarro said the funds are an initial investment.
“We know that it is very possible that we’re going to have to come back [to allocate more funds]. … I think it’s going to help a lot of folks get ready and get things going,” she said.
Child care businesses and organizations that have received financial relief from the federal Paycheck Protection Program or other state and local funding will still be eligible to apply for the grants. Any funding they received from those programs would be deducted from the amount they would be eligible for through the county’s child care grant program.
The grants would be prioritized for programs that serve low-income families and children with special needs, and participate in the Maryland EXCELS (Excellence Counts in Early Learning and School Age Care) program.
Those that serve areas with more low-income families and lower accessibility to child care in five ZIP codes — 20877, 20886, 20902, 20866 and 20906 — would be prioritized, as well.
The calculation for the recovery loss funds is based on the licensed capacity for centers, not enrollment.
Council Member Craig Rice said the county will prioritize centers in the EXCELS program because of the “high quality” education benefit for children who could not normally access it.
“We’re elevating all of our folks and really putting a priority around ensuring that they get the top-notch level of early care and education to make sure that we can eliminate opportunity, equity and achievement gaps that we see in our schools,” he said.
The $10 million for the program would be sourced from the roughly $183.4 million granted to the county through the federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act.
“This is not going to solve every problem,” Council Member Andrew Friedson said. “This is not going to help every facility. This is not going to fix an industry that has been hit particularly hard by this pandemic. But it’s something and it’s significant and it will help a lot.”
On Tuesday, the council also unanimously approved providing $500,000 to help the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation.
The EDC will form a program to provide small grants for reopening expenses for restaurants and retails shops, as well as technical assistance for industry consultants to help with recovery in the county.
Leftover funds from the $1.5 million Telework Assistance Program would transfer over to the new 3R Initiative (Reopen, Relaunch, Reimagine). The appropriation would be matched with $250,000 from another private entity.
Council Member Hans Riemer said part of the initiative would be to bring ideas, such as the Bethesda Streetery, to other parts of the county. Under the Streetery, there is additional restaurant seating outdoors in downtown Bethesda while some stretches of road are closed to traffic.
“It’s a good, targeted program and we’ll see how the process goes. … This is a specific strategy. Perhaps we’ll want to expand it, but I think it makes sense to start off as you have it before you today and we’ll see how it goes,” he said. “I’m optimistic that our residents will see the benefit from the program in improved opportunities to get outside and do some shopping, do some dining.”
Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.