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Nebraska DHHS Announces Initiatives to use CARES Act Funding to Aid Child Care Providers

Lincoln – With the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), $3.5 billion was appropriated to the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF). The CCDF is the primary federal funding source for child care subsidies to help low-income working families access child care and improve quality of child care for all children. Nebraska received $20 million in CARES Act funding for its share of the total federal allotment. These funds will be used to launch several new initiatives and to increase support to some existing initiatives. These include:

1. Child Care Relief Fund

Child care providers have been immensely impacted by COVID-19. In response to this impact, the Child Care Relief Fund was established to offer grants of $1,000 to meet the needs of child care providers. The relief fund application was released to providers on April 8, 2020 and over 500 applications were received within the first hour. Over 1,000 applications have since been received. The Nebraska Children and Families Foundation and the Nebraska Early Childhood Collaborative have used private dollars to fund around 800 applications; the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) wants CARES Act funding be used to fulfill the remaining applications.

2. Child Care Provider Stabilization Grant Funds

Although many child care providers have remained open to serve families, providers have had to reduce the number of children they care for to comply with state DHMs. To help make up lost income, DHHS will be awarding Child Care Stabilization grants to help cover costs related to COVID-19. Providers must be open and operating at least 30 days prior to application. Family child care homes I/II will be eligible for a one-time grant of $3,500 and child care centers would be eligible for a one-time grant of $5,500. Providers will need to submit an application and be in good standing with DHHS. Funding can be used on allowable expenses such as: utility payments, rent or mortgage payments for child care programs, staff salaries, cleaning supplies, personal protective gear, supplies to care for children, and other allowable CCDF items.

3. Incentive to Reopen Child Care Programs Grant

To better serve child care providers who have discontinued operations temporarily due to COVID-19, DHHS will be awarding Incentive to Reopen Child Care Program Grants. Priority for these grants will be given to providers who are in good standing with DHHS and meet certain criteria, such as committing to reopen within 30 days, participating in state quality improvement initiatives, and servicing low-income children or children of essential and emergency workers.

Family child care homes I/II will be eligible for a one-time grant of $2,000 and child care centers would be eligible for a one-time grant of $3,000. A provider would not be eligible for both the stabilization grant and this grant.

4. Nebraska Child Care Referral Network Website

In response to COVID-19, a new Child Care Referral Network website (www.nechildcarereferral.org) was created to help families find safe, high quality, licensed child care. A public-private collaboration of agencies and organizations rapidly developed an online, searchable database that connects working parents with child care providers that have open child care spots in their area. DHHS is planning to use CARES Act funding to improve the data collection process and technology platform to sustain the network and build it into the existing Nebraska child care resource and referral system.

5. Afterschool and Summer Learning for School Age Children

DHHS is looking to use CARES Act funding for future collaboration between DHHS and the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation’s Beyond School Bells initiative, which supports expanded learning opportunities. Discussions about potential initiatives that will support new and innovative afterschool summer programs and school age child care are underway, as the normal planned summer programs may not take place.

DHHS plans on collaborating with Nebraska Children and Families Foundation on the administration of these initiatives. More information will be released as details become available.

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