More than a year ago, the White House announced the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Child Care Stabilization program, a federal aid package designed to enable more than 200,000 child care providers across the country to keep their doors open and serve as many children as possible.
As the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) has been distributed nationally, early childhood education centers have reaped the benefits—including increased funding for teacher compensation and benefits. But although the ARPA funds have made a significant improvement in the ability of child care centers to pay their employees, long-term solutions are absolutely necessary to ensure that the forward momentum can be sustained.
Nationally, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) included multiple funding streams to support the child care industry, including a national $15 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and $24 billion for a COVID-19 child care relief and stabilization program, which will provide states with resources to offer immediate grants for child care providers struggling to keep their doors open.
As a state, North Carolina received a total of $1.3 billion for child care. Of that total, $805 million was designated for stabilization funding and controlled by the Cooper administration. As of November 3rd, more than $655 million of this funding has been distributed to over 4,200 child care centers and home-based providers across the state.
In Onslow County to date, an estimated $8 million in Stabilization Grant dollars has been received by various early childhood education centers and family child care homes.
The benefits of the Stabilization Grants have been tangible:
After the $655 million in stabilization funding was distributed across the state, many early childhood educators worried that when funding runs out, they will no longer have the resources to sustain the improvements they’ve implemented.
The funding was originally set to expire in September 2023—however, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) announced that it will be extending the grant program that supports teacher pay through December 2023. This extension will use approximately $150 million in discretionary ARPA funding to continue to provide compensation for teachers.
Although the extension of compensation grants is an important step in keeping early childhood educators paid, this is only a temporary fix—and it is certainly not enough to sustain the early care and learning workforce.
Federal and state policymakers must find new opportunities to provide ongoing funding to support teacher compensation and ensure that the early childhood education sector has the resources it needs to grow and thrive.
Additionally, while the Stabilization Grants have provided additional resources for early childhood educators, it has by no means solved the workforce crisis. In an industry that historically pays very minimally, many workers continue to opt for higher-paying jobs outside of the sector. Even with increased pay and the presence of benefits, many early childhood centers are struggling to hire new staff and are forced to turn away families because they cannot expand classrooms.
If you are an early childhood educator interested in learning more about the Child Care Stabilization Grants in North Carolina, you can learn more about the application process by clicking here.