(Washington, DC) Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education announced $32 million in Back-to-Work Child Care grants intended to help DC licensed child care facilities resume and maintain full operations as they recover from the pandemic and enable families, particularly women, to find the child care they need to return to work. The Low Income Investment Fund (LIIF) has been selected to administer the new program that will support pandemic recovery and improve access to care for families in the District.
“We know that women left the workforce in large numbers, here in DC and nationally, since the beginning of the pandemic and have struggled to return. We also know that for many women, particularly women of color, access to high-quality, affordable child care can be the determining factor in re-entering the workforce,” said Mayor Bowser. “With DC now fully open, this investment will ensure that more working families, particularly women, can return to work by improving the number of high-quality child care slots in the District.”
The Back-to-Work Child Care Grant will provide financial assistance to preserve the supply of child care in neighborhoods most impacted by the pandemic and offset costs for programs to resume operating at full capacity, opening and preserving additional slots for families in need of care. The grant program will also support affordability, prioritizing providers who serve children participating in the District’s child care subsidy program.
Throughout the pandemic, the District has continued to make major investments in stabilizing the sector, and today, more than 90 percent of child development facilities District-wide are open and the number of licensed child care slots is higher than before the start of the pandemic. However, child care programs face hardships due to financial losses sustained during the public health emergency, increased operational costs, and a competitive labor market. As a result, child care enrollment remains below pre-pandemic numbers despite significant family needs for child care.
Since the start of the pandemic, nearly 70% of the jobs that were lost were held by women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), due in part to access to child care. And, despite strong gains over the past four months, net jobs held by women are still down more than 829,000 compared to pre-pandemic levels. The Bowser Administration’s investments will expand access to affordable, high-quality child care and make it possible for more DC residents to return to work.
“For DC families to return to work, we must ensure every child has access to safe, nurturing and high-quality care options,” State Superintendent Dr. Christina Grant said. “The Back-to-Work Child Care Grant will grow the supply and improve the affordability of child care in the District. This grant program, coupled with Mayor Bowser’s historic investments in early care and education, will help put our city, and our littlest learners, on a trajectory for success.”
LIIF will stand up and administer the grant program, awarding subgrants to child development programs. In addition to financial support, LIIF will provide subgrantees business supports to enhance marketing, enrollment, fee collection, business efficiency and adapt their business models to new realities and family needs. Approximately $7.9 million will be awarded in the first grant year, with $15.8 million and $8.3 million allotted for the second and third grant years, respectively.
In addition to the Back to Work Child Care Grant, the District is providing significant financial relief to the child care sector in Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22), including:
- The DC Child Care Stabilization Grant, a $38 million program funded through federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds, which is currently in the process of distributing funds to more than 430 licensed child development facility in the District;
- The Access to Quality Child Care Grant, a $10 million program, also administered by LIIF, that will increase the supply of child care services for infants and toddlers by providing grants to child development facilities to expand, open and improve new and existing child development facilities.
- Increased subsidy payment rates for child development facilities participating in the District’s child care subsidy program, to reflect the increased costs to deliver child care and maintain a supply of affordable care for low-income families during the pandemic recovery.
“The COVID-19 pandemic shined a light on the critical role child care plays in thriving economy,” Laura Jackman, deputy director of early care and education at LIIF, said. “LIIF has administered several grant programs in partnership with OSSE to ensure families have access to the care they need to return to work and child care programs have the support they need to operate. We are thrilled to continue our work together in support of DC’s children, families and the child care sector.”
These investments build on more than $50 million in financial relief that the District distributed to child care providers with federal and local funds earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic. The District has avoided the large-scale loss of child care seen in other states due to these substantial investments. These additional investments will ensure that the District's child care sector recovers stronger than ever.
More information on the Back-to-Work Child Care Grant program will be shared on OSSE’s website as it becomes available at osse.dc.gov.