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Child care funds remain available to support school-age programs: Check with your child care agency about their plans

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Child care funds remain available to support school-age programs: Check with your child care agency about their plans

With the American Rescue Plan (ARP) passed over a year ago, the school-age child care sector has seen some positive advancements for the field, but there is still much more to do. Challenges remain in the school-age care arena where limited parents can access and afford care, limited staff can afford to take jobs in the low-paid sector, and many school-age programs continue to find state structures for infants, toddlers and preschoolers are not a good fit for their needs.

In March 2020, the American Rescue Plan provided two major relief funding streams for child care: a $24 billion investment in child care stabilization funds and a $15 billion investment in a Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) supplemental. (See how much your state received.)

The stabilization funds, intended to provide immediate relief to providers to keep operational and serving families, had the most immediate deadline. Fifty percent of funds were to be spent by December 2021, and 100 percent by September 2022, with all funds liquidated by September of 2023. The Ways and Means Committee also reported on how many states were able to meet the 50 percent expenditure goal last December. The Bipartisan Policy Center reported that some states with delays have restrictions requiring legislative action before they can spend relief dollars. These funds are being used for school-age programs in many states including grant programs for summer camps and in areas such as staff recruitment and compensation, increasing base rates for serving special need, linguistically and culturally diverse populations, and program stipends based on cost of quality calculators.

The $15 Billion in CCDF Supplemental funds have an even broader list of available uses and a longer timeline. These funds which can be used for any expenditure eligible in the CCDF legislation including grants and contracts, quality systems, licensing, technical assistance and professional development, studies on the cost of quality, increased provider pay, living wages for staff, data systems, increasing supply, supporting mental health, and working with partners among other areas. The funds must be obligated by September 2023 and liquidated by 2024.

Given the longer timeline, it is reasonable that some states may have focused their attention first to the stabilization funds and are now thinking more about their supplemental fund expenditures. This makes it an especially good time to reach out to your state child care agency with any thoughts or recommendations for how the funds can support your program to support school-age youth. For some programs that may mean support to engage in the licensing system, for others it may mean a quality system that is a good fit for the school-age field, or it can provide support with background check fees or processes or another range of options.

Unlike the American Rescue Plan CCDF Stabilization Funds, or the ARP Education Funds known as ESSER, the CCDF Supplemental Funds do not have any formal mechanisms for either stakeholder engagement or reporting. Child Care Aware has done some good work collecting media reports of where states have mentioned investing their stabilization funds so far.

The School-Age child care space can benefit from a number of important investments already being considered across states including:

  • Studies on the true cost of quality school-age care
  • Increased provider reimbursements
  • Attention to staff recruitment, career pathways, and pay
  • Support for families that can’t afford the difference between the subsidy provided and the cost of the program of their choice
  • Increasing the families eligible for funding under state regulations
  • Grants and contracts for school-age and summer programs
  • School-Age specific agency level staff to support administration and coordination
  • School-age specific licensing (accounting for the different setting requirements, staff requirements, and health and safety requirements needed for school-age programs)
  • Attention to the needs of license exempt school-age programs
  • Support for background checks including paying for fees or helping streamline and speed the process
  • Professional development specifically targeted to serving older youth (age 5-early adolescence) and special populations
  • Professional development and supports around mental health for staff and youth
  • Engagement in appropriately designed QRIS/Quality systems
  • Maps and data systems to understand supply for school-age care including access over summer months
  • Partnerships with intermediaries such as statewide afterschool networks to support field building

Grants may still be available in your state. The Office of Child Care has a tracker of state stabilization funds.

We hope that afterschool and summer learning programs serving children ages 6 to 13 feel empowered to use this unique opportunity to make their needs known to their state agencies in order to advance the school-age field and increase access to quality programs for all children in their state, regardless of income or geography. If you have any questions or want to share your needs and/or successes, reach out to us at the Afterschool Alliance. We always enjoying connecting with you and your work.

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