Governor Roy Cooper announced updates to the North Carolina Child Care Stabilization Grant, which was first introduced in October 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 help not only children’s education, but families and child care workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“High-quality early childhood education is critical for parents who need child care and for employers who need workers,” Cooper said in the release.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many childcare centers have had to lay off employees to account for the loss of tuition from families who were no longer dependent on childcare. Funds from the one-time award are intended to help 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 the FUNDAMENTALS Child Development Center in Goldsboro, said employee retention is one of the biggest benefits of the funding so 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 gave us a chance to bring in more individuals.”
Stevens also said that with the new funding, her child care center was able to provide tuition assistance to families.
“It’s had a really big positive impact on families, kids and these team members,” she said.
With grant applications still open, Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said she hopes 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 kids who need pre-K help in our community,” she said. “I would like to see that continue and the opportunity for any child who needs aftercare or special education of some sort to be able to get that as well.”
Current Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education Vice Chair Rani Dasi said she was pleased to see the launch of this program, and hopes to see a similar recurring initiative in the future.
“I would like 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 connections with each other and a safe space with highly qualified staff.”
Dasi and Stevens agreed that funding could help change one of the biggest losses for children in the pandemic — consistency.
“Before the pandemic, there was a lot more consistency for kids,” Stevens said. “When the pandemic first hit, it was nowhere consistent because of the number of closures that 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 only 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 children to thrive.”
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