Governor Polis, CDHS Announce $275 Million Investment in Colorado’s Early Childhood Sector to Help Build Back Better
DENVER CO (STL.News) Governor Jared Polis and the Office of Early Childhood (OEC) announced the allocation of over $275 million through the federal American Rescue Plan to support families with young children, child care providers, and other early childhood professionals. Funds will help keep child care providers open through the pandemic recovery, save families across the state over $100 million in child care expenses, and support the retention of the early childhood educator workforce.
“We are investing over $275 million in federal funds to make childcare more affordable in Colorado and to create a brighter future for children and families in our state. As families work to build back stronger from this pandemic, it’s critical that quality child care is accessible and affordable to all Colorado families,” said Governor Jared Polis. “This investment will save families money and help get parents back to work while giving our children opportunities to learn, grow and succeed.”
Child care is one of the biggest expenses families face. In Colorado, infant care costs nearly 10 percent more than the average rent. Colorado’s economy depends on working parents, with nearly 70 percent of children under age six having both parents in the workforce.
However, even pre-pandemic, over half of parents reported having missed work opportunities because they either did not have access to care or could not afford it. This funding will result in $100 million kept in the pockets of families across the state, with families saving an average of about $450 per child in tuition reductions over the nine month grant.
“This funding provides Colorado with an incredible opportunity to strengthen and transform the programs in Colorado that support young children,” said Michelle Barnes, executive director of the Department of Human Services. “Not only will these dollars ensure families are getting vital services, they will immediately help our child care providers keep their doors open, and will help us stabilize and expand child care long into the future, meaning families can access the care they need.”
The American Rescue Plan was supported by the majority of Colorado’s federal delegation.
$267 million will fund stabilization grants, workforce retention grants, and reduced family tuition for child care. The remaining $8 million will go toward early childhood programs like home visiting and community based child abuse prevention, that help reduce child abuse, improve parents’ mental health and help children be ready for school. In addition, these funds will be used to establish mentorship and apprenticeship programs for early childhood professionals; support the health and mental health of children, families, and providers; expand innovation grants that will help communities address challenges like the affordability and availability of child care; and help new child care providers become licensed and new and existing child care providers increase their quality level.
“The funding strategies were developed with robust input from families, child care providers, and other early childhood professionals, and reflect both the immediate and long term needs of our early childhood community,” said Mary Alice Cohen, Director of the Office of Early Childhood. “I am excited to share more about how these funds will support early childhood professionals, children, and families across our state.”
This funding will help retain the state’s approximately 24,000 early childhood educators through increased employee compensation, retention bonuses, professional development, and hiring additional staff, while offsetting operational expenses for the state’s 4,700 child care programs. Despite the high costs of care for parents, early childhood programs often operate on tight budgets and cannot charge families what it fully costs to provide high-quality care. With workforce costs accounting for nearly 80 percent of a child care program’s budget, early childhood educators are among the lowest paid professionals in the education sector, with more than one third of the workforce receiving subsidies from public assistance programs to make ends meet.
The OEC will host a virtual town hall in English and Spanish on Thursday, September 23rd at 5:30 p.m., to share with the public how these funds will be used. The town hall will be followed by a series of meetings that will cover specific programs and strategies supported by the American Rescue Plan dollars to help providers and community members learn more about accessing these funds.
The Colorado Office of Early Childhood previously received $119 million from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA), $45 million from Colorado House Bill 20B-1002, and $42 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. American Rescue Plan funding will be used to build and expand on many of the strategies developed through these previous efforts. The Colorado Office of Early Childhood will receive an additional $197 million in American Rescue Plan funding, and is currently working with stakeholders to determine uses for these remaining funds, to be announced in the coming months.