Help For Child Care Programs Comes From Local Early Childhood Group

Thursday, April 9, 2020
Local child care programs may find relief from a newly repurposed early childhood fund. 
 
"Recent shelter-in-place orders have left many early learning programs wondering how long they can continue to pay their staff before facing eventual layoffs," officials said. "In response to the need for help, Early Matters Chattanooga made the decision to repurpose $260,000 of their Quality Matters fund, which launched in February."
 
The newly renamed Emergency Child Care Provider Bridge Fund will provide programs with 50 or fewer employees emergency funds to help them stay in business until they receive state or federal dollars.
Grants range from $3,000 to $8,000 depending on program size and can be used to cover operational and/or payroll costs. This collaboration between Early Matters Chattanooga, The City of Chattanooga and The United Way of Greater Chattanooga was made possible by The Smart City Venture Fund and The City of Chattanooga.
 
“The harsh reality is that many child care programs are closing their doors, laying off staff, and may not be able to reopen when this is all over,” said Ariel Ford of the City’s Office of Early Learning and a member of the Early Matters coalition. “If we can help provide bridge funds to help keep their staff paid, we have a responsibility to do that for the children and families in our community.”
 
To apply, early learning programs can visit www.earlymatterschatt.org.  The funds are available immediately and will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Links to other local, state and federal funds available to child care providers are also listed there. Federal and state funds may not be available until this summer, underscoring the need for this fund and its quick availability.
 
The original Quality Matters Fund was intended to provide early learning programs with one-time capital investments needed to transition into high-quality programs or to expand high-quality seats. The original amount of $400,000 was made up of public and private funds to be distributed in two rounds - one in March, which was completed, and one in April. 
 
“It was already difficult for programs to find and keep qualified child care staff,” said Silvia Ramos, senior director of Education Initiatives at United Way and member of Early Matters Chattanooga. “The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) says 50 percent of child care programs nationwide will close permanently due to COVID-19. We want to try and prevent the devastation that would cause for our community.” 
 
The Early Matters Coalition will also host a technical assistance webinar for applicants next Tuesday. To access webinar and for questions, contact earlymatterschatt@gmail.com.

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