When Ivy Ward cut back costs for her child care business in Fallon last summer after a sharp drop in enrollment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a federal pandemic relief grant administered by a local non-profit helped keep the center alive.
“I don’t know what I would have done without that grant,” Ward said.
Those funds have since expired. The child care industry is still facing obstacles like higher operating costs due to the pandemic.
The Build Back Better bill passed by House Democrats last week allocates $400 billion for universal pre-K for 3-and-4 year-olds, and also provides subsidies to limit how much of a family’s income goes toward daycare costs for younger children. However that legislation, and the child care provisions, have yet to be approved by the Senate, which is expected to whittle down the House legislation.
In the meantime, some relief for Nevada families struggling to find and pay for child care is starting to get rolled out under a new statewide program, thanks to the state’s share of the American Rescue Plan signed into law by President Joe Biden in March.
More than $222 million in ARP funds will be allocated to support child care in the Silver State, as approved recently by the state legislative Interim Finance Committee. Funds are available for the more than 600 licensed facilities, according to the state plan.
Funds will be given as stipends for operating costs to help providers stay in business and help existing and newly-recruited child care centers achieve sustainable revenue. The funds are expected to save Nevada families more than $50 million in child care costs, support more than 750 small businesses and provide more than $50 million in direct financial support to child care workers, according to the governor’s office.
“This investment will help stabilize and grow our child care sector by supporting providers and families, as well as ensuring state-level infrastructure is in place to meet continuing needs of parents and employers while giving our children opportunities to learn, grow and succeed,” said Gov. Steve Sisolak in a statement.
The additional funds for child care will help keep facilities open in the state. Child care facilities have continued to close statewide due to pandemic-related low enrollment, according to licensing data from the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services.
So far, 245 applications for ARP funding have been received from childcare providers by the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, which is working with state partners to administer the funds and implement programs designed to support both child care providers and parents.
Partner organizations include The Children’s Cabinet, the Las Vegas Urban League, Nevada Association for the Education of Young Children, The Nevada Registry, and the Nevada Community Health Worker Association.
The Children’s Cabinet has received a flood of applications and expects hundreds more.
“We anticipate receiving close to 500 applications from licensed providers,” said Marty Elquist, a development director with The Children’s Cabinet.
Past stabilization stipends distributed by The Children’s Cabinet using federal pandemic response appropriations were provided to 355 licensed providers and 14 Out-of-School-Time providers serving children through age 12, including Ivy Ward’s child care center Ivy Land in Fallon, Nevada.
The Children’s Cabinet is encouraging licensed child care providers to apply for ARP stipends which will support providers with 6-months of operating expenses.
“We are less than halfway through the application period and are tracking … available funding every day,” said Elquist. “The Children’s Cabinet is working closely with the Division of Welfare and Supportive Services to ensure there is ample funding to cover the stabilization stipend requests.”
Most of the state funds will be used to stabilize and reinvent the child care sector in Nevada by supporting providers. The state hopes the funds will increase access to child care services and reduce costs to families. The remaining funds will be targeted to decrease rates for underserved populations, increase child care subsidies for families in need, and train child care employees.
Providers will be required to pass along 20% of the stipends to families, which can be done by supplying diapers, food, reducing co-pays or other options that benefit working families.
Childcare experts in the state, however, warn that Nevada will need to be strategic in distributing subsidies and expanding child care to take full advantage of the ARP funding.
Subsidies for low-income families are already available in Nevada but only a fraction of those who qualify actually receive them.
In fact, Nevada has some of the lowest rates of subsidy enrollment of the eligible population in the nation, according to a study funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The study notes that several factors in the state contribute to the lack of participation in subsidized child care, including a lack of providers and capacity, lack of awareness of the program among the eligible population, and barriers that keep child care providers from participating in the subsidy program.
All Nevada child care facilities are encouraged to apply for the available funds, and applications are still open. Information on how to apply can be found here.
Eligible applicants include:
- Child care centers licensed in Nevada (with the exception of Head Start)
- Family or group child care licensed in Nevada
- Nevada Out of School Time providers (excluding city and county parks and recreation programs)
- License-exempt family child care provider participating in subsidy/Child Care and Development Fund
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