Governor Ned Lamont today announced that his administration plans to make a historic investment in early childhood programs across Connecticut to assist in their ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its resulting economic impact, including through the release of $210 million from the federal funding the state has received to date to support pandemic recovery efforts.
The governor announced the plan during a visit this afternoon from Vice President Kamala Harris at the Boys and Girls Club of New Haven. Connecticut’s Congressional delegation helped champion passage of the funding under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA) that was adopted in late 2020, and through the American Rescue Plan (ARP) that was approved several weeks ago.
The Lamont administration will work collaboratively with the Connecticut General Assembly to finalize the plan so the state can continue supporting children, families, and child care providers through this difficult time.
“The strength of our state is dependent upon the strength of our early childhood programs, not only because they provide critical support for development of the youngest people in our communities who will lead the next generation of our economy, but they also support those who are currently in our workforce and need these services so they can go to work or receive career training opportunities that can lead them to even better jobs,” Governor Lamont said. “If we want to grow our economy and help families return to work, we need to support child care providers. This is a major investment in these services at a time when this support is so desperately needed. I especially want to thank Connecticut’s Congressional delegation for championing child care funding in federal legislation and ensuring these resources were quickly delivered to the state.”
“We cannot reopen our economy if families do not have safe, reliable, affordable care,” the members of Connecticut’s Congressional delegation – including Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, and Representatives John Larson, Joe Courtney, Rosa DeLauro, Jim Himes, and Jahana Hayes – said in a joint statement. “Long before the pandemic, the child care industry was struggling. We are thrilled that this transformative federal funding, secured by the Connecticut delegation, will help our childcare and early childhood education sectors thrive. This historic relief is the investment necessary to rebuild our child care industry so that it works for everyone.”
This announcement builds on the Lamont administration’s demonstrated commitment to early childhood. Over the last two years, the governor has heightened awareness of the importance of child care to the state’s workforce and economy. Since the start of the pandemic, Governor Lamont has supported the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood’s dedicated efforts to support child care workers, help stabilize child care programs, and recognize high standards across the child care system.
“This is a historic day for children and families in Connecticut,” Connecticut Early Childhood Commissioner Beth Bye said. “Advocates and families have been asking for more accessible child care for decades. Grants will preserve child care infrastructure, child care subsidies will help parents enrolled in workforce training and education, and Connecticut’s child care subsidy program will make significant investments in high-quality child care programs.”
The plan includes:
- Expanding access: A central piece of the plan includes a two-year, $50 million investment to pay for child care through Connecticut’s Care 4 Kids program for parents enrolled in higher education and approved workforce training programs. This will support parents who have been displaced from their jobs during the pandemic and are in need of child care while they receive workforce training and education to re-tool for new job opportunities. Connecticut is one of only three states that excludes parents in higher education and workforce training programs from child care support.
- Supporting child care workers: A total of $120 million will be used for operational stabilization grants for struggling child care businesses that have been hit hard by the impact of the pandemic. Many of these businesses have faced economic hardships as child care enrollment has been limited, health and safety measures have been costly, and overall child care program revenues have been significantly reduced. Some programs have closed their doors, with the remainder fighting to keep their doors open to the children and families they serve. Grants are open to all licensed child care centers, group child care homes, family child care homes, and license-exempt programs that accept Care 4 Kids child care subsidies. Grants have an equity focus, with total funding weighted to support programs in underserved communities hardest hit by COVID-19.
- Investing in quality: The plan also invests $26 million over two years in high-quality child care programs that will pay substantially higher market rates to programs that are accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the National Association for Family Child Care. An additional $6 million will provide support and coaching to child care programs working to secure accreditation and related fees. Research shows that investing in higher quality child care programs yields better short and long-term outcomes for children.
In addition, Governor Lamont recently dedicated $8 million to pay Care 4 Kids family fees for new and existing families who receive child care subsidies beginning April 1, 2021, until September 30, 2021. Currently, approximately 15,000 Connecticut families receive child care subsidies. All of these families will have the parent share of the payment waived.
The Lamont administration has also prioritized child care programs and child care workers through the Governor’s Workforce Council and the Governor’s Council on Women and Girls. Those groups, together with the Office of Early Childhood, are collaborating to study the cost of providing quality child care, to encourage workforce development and adequate compensation by aligning credentials with higher wages, and to engage the private sector. The councils have early commitments from Boehringer Ingelheim, Electric Boat, LEGO Systems Inc., and Indra Nooyi, former chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, to help spearhead the private sector engagement portion of their work.
The governor said that the plans announced today are the first phase of child care support using the federal relief funds, with the remainder to be announced and released in a planned roll-out. Connecticut received $70 million in CRRSAA funding and is anticipating $276 million more in ARP funds. The CRRSAA funds may be used to provide direct child care services; resources, supplies and/or technical assistance; and stabilization grants to support increased operating expenses. The ARP funds provide $170 million to stabilize the child care industry and $106 million to expand child care assistance.