State officials are expanding a grant program designed to stabilize the child care sector and enable families to find care, and now estimate providers will receive about $450 million in federal grant funds through June 2022, six months longer than the program's original length.
The news, announced Friday afternoon, comes after the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation reported that, based on spending rates in September, the Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) grants, which were launched over the summer, would be spent down by the end of February 2022.
Earlier this week, state officials said about $150 million in grants aimed at helping to stabilize child care infrastructure, which has been rocked by the upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic, had been distributed by the Department of Early Education and Care so far this year.
The department conducted a survey of its C3 operational grant recipients, and 95% of programs reported using the funding to sustain their operations, and 11% indicated they were in danger of closing in the next six months without continued C3 funding.
On Friday, the department also announced that in an attempt to help providers recruit and retain workers, the grants will include bonuses to child care providers that increase salaries and benefits for their workers or expand capacity and services for their parents. The department also announced a 4%, $20 million rate increase to providers that serve subsidized families, which could also boost workers' pay.
The department said it plans to hold public meetings in different regions of the state and to gather feedback from child care providers as the bonus program is finalized and rolled out.
"We know that sustaining the child care sector is vital for families to return to work," said Early Education and Care Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy. "We are working hard to ensure child care employers have the resources they need to retain and recruit a strong workforce with strategies designed at the local level by those who best know the needs of their communities. EEC's goal with this C3 grant program is to provide flexibility for programs that invest in compensation enhancements that are most meaningful to their employees."
The child care sector in Massachusetts has also been aided by $36 million in CARES Act to assist with child care reopening after the system-wide closure in March 2020, and $30 million in workforce and facilities grants for infrastructure support.
~ Michael P. Norton/SHNS