SONIA-BROWN-02042021-KS-187

BROOMFIELD, CO - FEBRUARY 4: Sonia Brown has been providing child care from her home for over 20 years, and spends her morning playing games with six young children on February 4, 2021 in Broomfield, Colorado. (Photo By Kathryn Scott)

The Polis administration is injecting hundreds of millions of dollars into the child care industry, whose members recently warned of more closures because their operations are no longer sustainable. 

State officials announced on Friday that $271 million in grants are available to help Colorado's nearly 5,000 child care providers pay for operations and other services, such as mental health and counseling. 

The administration is making the money available at a time when Colorado's economy is beginning to rebound but the COVID-19 pandemic continues to exacerbate the child care industry's challenges. Even before the pandemic, the child care providers only had the capacity to serve 62% of Colorado’s 246,000 kids under 6 whose parents both work, according to a report citing 2019 figures.  

The Early Childhood Education Association of Colorado, the trade group for licensed child care providers, released the results of a survey last year that said roughly 130 programs could cease operations by the end of January. The at-risk programs represent nearly 6,000 child care spaces, the group said.      

It's a scene that's replicated across the country, where child care providers have shut down or shrunk operations, posing difficulties to workers and businesses alike. 

Under the Child Care Stabilization Grants, eligible child care providers can get anywhere between $950 and $160,000 in total, depending on their size and the quality of their work based on a state rating system, the Polis administration said in a news release. Those who apply by Jan. 28 and qualify for the grant program could start receiving payment on Feb. 11, the administration said.

The money, which came from the American Rescue Plan and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, can also be used to pay for salaries and benefits, rent or mortgage, as well as procure heath and sanitation supplies.

The Polis administration hopes the large infusion of cash — providers will get the financial assistance in nine equal payments — would help stabilize the industry, thereby helping to ensure that parents have a quality place that will care for their children while they are at work.      

“For Colorado to move forward, we need to ensure hard working parents and those returning to the workforce have the peace of mind that their children are receiving high quality care and that our terrific child care centers can thrive,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a news release.

Michelle Barnes, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Human Services, said child care is essential, particularly as the state navigates and recovers from the pandemic.  

“This funding will help providers keep their doors open, giving families access to the safe, high quality care they need to go to work or school," Barnes said in a news release. 

In the same release, Mary Alice Cohen, Director of the Office of Early Childhood, echoed the child care industry's woes.

“With this funding we are working towards stabilizing the child care sector, so providers do not have to close," she said. "In combination with other strategies funded by state and federal stimulus funds, we can protect the current child care industry in Colorado, and grow and strengthen it into the future.” 

Providers noted three major reasons why they face the risk of closure in the Early Childhood Education Association of Colorado's survey: they can't pay staff, they can't find workers, and they can't increase their capacity.

Many providers have taken on debt to try and sustain their businesses, the group added.

"I literally have lost everything and doing my best to hold on," one provider said. "But I haven’t been helped from a grant since earlier this year."

"Knowing whether or not we are going to be able to remain open — it's basically a countdown at this point," another said.

"We have had to deplete all of our savings and are behind on almost of our obligations," another said. 

Child care providers can visit the grant application help desk at help.coecstimulus.com or get more information at coecstimulus.com.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.