Gov. Roy Cooper announced updates to the North Carolina Child Care Stabilization Grant, which was first introduced in October of 2021, in a February press release.
Since the program's launch, nearly $336 million of the total $805 million has been distributed to 3,961 child care centers across North Carolina. Cooper said he hopes to aid not only children’s education, but families and child care workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“High-quality early childhood education is critical to parents who need child care and to employers who need workers,” Cooper said in the release.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many child care centers had to lay off employees to account for the loss of tuition from families who no longer depended on childcare. Funds from the one-time grant are intended to aid these employees, according to an October press release.
With the funding, employers aim to bring in new staff and provide better opportunities for those currently employed.
Candace Stevens, who owns FUNDAMENTALS Child Development Center in Goldsboro, said employee retention is one of the greatest benefits of the funding thus far.
“Our morale has gone up because of the things we’ve been able to do for our team members,” she said. “Raising the salaries and boosting morale has given us a chance to bring in more individuals.”
Stevens also said her child care center has been able to provide tuition assistance for families with the new funding.
"It’s had a very huge positive impact on families, children and these team members,” she said.
With grant applications still open, Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said she hopes that more child care centers will apply for this funding. She wants more children to benefit from quality programs.
Hemminger also said there are certain areas where the grant could expand, including increased access to pre-kindergarten and special education programs.
“We don’t have enough spots for all the children who need pre-K help in our community," she said. "I’d love to see that going on and the opportunity for any child who needs aftercare or special education of some sort to be able to get that as well.”
Current Vice Chairperson of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools' Board of Education Rani Dasi said she was glad to see the introduction of this program, and hopes to see a similar recurring initiative in the future.
“I’d love to see a broader plan for how we engage early childhood education in North Carolina,” she said. “Those safe spaces where they can play and experience social engagements with each other and a safe space with highly qualified staff.”
Dasi and Stevens agreed funding can help amend one of the greatest losses for children in the pandemic — consistency.
“Prior to the pandemic, there was a lot more consistency for children,” Stevens said. “Once the pandemic hit, it was nowhere consistent because of the number of shutdowns centers had to do.”
Dasi said she sees recurring programs as the way to provide this consistency to children. She said she would like the CHCCS Board of Education to consider future programs, including a universal pre-K option.
“We can just understand how important it is to continue to invest in a high quality, consistent safe space," she said. "And that includes facilities, staff and all the resources that enable kids to thrive.”
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