CRANSTON, RI The Rhode Island Department of Human Services (DHS) is pleased to announce a new grant program designed to support and stabilize Rhode Island's child care industry. The program will aim to alleviate some of the economic and operational hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and response.
In June 2020, after experiencing a three-month mandated closure due to COVID-19, RI child care programs safely reopened their doors to support children and families in accessing quality care and education. As a critical infrastructure for RI's economy, child care providers bravely navigated new regulations and guidelines aimed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 to ensure their services remained safely and effectively available for RI's working families.
In the fall of 2020, DHS administered a comprehensive series of surveys to child care providers to assess the financial impact of the pandemic on their programs. These surveys, in addition to stakeholder feedback gathered by DHS, documented significant financial losses experienced by child care programs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The calculated revenue loss associated with this reduction was used to project the value of the grant award amounts for this fund. Grant awards will reflect a program's licensed capacity. They are designed to support child care programs in maintaining their operations.
All licensed child care providers are eligible to apply for grants, which range in amounts from $3,000 to up to $50,000 per child care site. Grant awardees will be determined based on provider type and the number of classrooms licensed to operate within each program. Application details and criteria will be included in the application information posted on kids.ri.gov (link below) on March 29, 2021. Applications will be open through May 7, 2021.
Programs will be required to apply the received funding to one or more allowable expenses, including costs related to direct services, PPE or other COVID-19 mitigation efforts, wages, spot-bonuses or professional development for their workforce, materials/supplies and/or small capital improvement projects. Programs that choose to use the funding for workforce bonuses will be eligible for additional funding in future months.
"Child care providers in our cities and towns perform critical services for our families and children and are essential to our State's economy," said Governor Dan McKee. "These grants are not only needed, but necessary for working families to receive the safe and dependable quality child care they deserve. I thank our Congressional delegation for helping Rhode Island secure the federal funds necessary that make this program a reality."
DHS is leveraging federal funding made available through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA) under the Child Care Development Fund (CCDF). RI's total CRRSA allocation is $23.9M. The State plans to allocate 75 percent of these funds for immediate stabilization grants to child care providers starting in April 2021. The remaining 25 percent of funds will be prioritized for new, capacity-building activities aimed at strengthening RI's child care infrastructure. Data collected through this grant process will ultimately inform those future investments.
"All children in our State deserve access to affordable, high-quality child care – which is a crucial part of racial, gender and economic justice." said Womazetta Jones, Secretary of the Rhode Island Executive Office of Health & Human Services. "During this public health emergency, child care providers have gone above and beyond, adapting their centers and services to ensure children are learning in safe and healthy ways. We are thankful to the Biden administration and Rhode Island's Congressional delegation, who secured this funding to further strengthen our State's child care system."
This grant program will support child care programs that have the collective capacity to care for and educate more than 24,000 children statewide. Families depend on licensed child care. DHS currently licenses and monitors approximately 815 child care programs across RI.
This fund is one of many resources the State has enacted to support child care providers. Since the statewide mandated closure of child care facilities in March of 2020, the Department has:
• Administered a temporary, enhanced COVID-19 Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) reimbursement rate for child care providers. This program reimburses providers at an enhanced rate for serving the State's most vulnerable, low-income families who participate in the State's subsidized child care program, CCAP;
• Reimbursed for CCAP services based on enrollment, not attendance;
• Waived the allowable absence policy for CCAP families;
• Administered a $5M Child Care Recovery Fund to support lost revenue associated with the mandated closure period and for investment in small capital improvement projects for child care providers to meet the COVID-19 regulations and guidelines;
• Established a multi million-dollar testing infrastructure for teachers and child care educators statewide and;
• Waived copays for all CCAP families during the mandated closure period (and again in March-September of 2021).
"This grant program will be one of many steps the Department will prioritize to support and strengthen our State's child care system," DHS Director Courtney E. Hawkins said. "We are committed to ensuring that the unbelievable work done by these providers during this past year serves as a demonstration for the state's plans for the recovery in the years to come".