Gov. Steve Sisolak says access to affordable, quality child care is essential to Nevada’s economy. (Photo: Kingkini Sengupta)
Amidst a shortage of licensed care providers for “young Nevadans,” the Nevada Child Care Fund has received $50 million for child care subsidies that will help families expand the pool of caregivers for their children.
The fund originally extended only to licensed care providers will now be available to any individual who wants and plans to take care of a child. This includes not just daycare centers and trained child care facilitators but family members, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors and friends.
Leah Bennett, an early childhood educator with Candelen, sees a need for quality child care in the Reno community. “Child care is expensive and a lot of people cannot afford it and so they are turning to friends, family and neighbors.”
According to the Economic Policy Institute, the average annual cost of infant care in Nevada is about $11,400, or $951 monthly.
The Children’s Cabinet, a nonprofit advocacy group, is conducting an analysis to find out what the current need is compared to the sources that are available for licensed care.
“Before COVID there was capacity and licensed care to meet about 32% of the need,” said Marty Elquist, department director for Children’s Cabinet.
The $50 million expansion aims to help families already eligible for federal child care assistance, by paying required copayments as long as funds are available. It also revises the income eligibility criteria for receiving assistance to include families with higher incomes.
Families of four that make around $72,000 per year now qualify for these funds, Karissa Loper Machado, agency manager of the Child Care and Development Program, said in an interview with KOLO 8 News.
“We now offer this federal child care assistance to any family making up to 85% of the state’s median income,” Machado said, adding that “anyone who is working, finishing their education or going through a job training program” would be eligible to apply.
At the July 14 opening of Northern Nevada’s Child Care Services Center in Reno, which is being lauded as the one-stop location for child care providers, Sisolak emphasized the need for quality child care and urged families to send in their applications.
“I encourage families to take the time to apply,” the governor said, reiterating that the support available is determined by the size of the family and their income level.
Applications can be submitted online but nonprofits like Children’s Cabinet in Northern Nevada and Las Vegas Urban League in Southern Nevada are available to answer questions.
Machado said that the Department of Health and Human Services is working in a variety of areas to support child care providers and families across the state. She added the Northern Nevada Child Care Services Center is a much needed resource for the Northern Nevada community.
The Reno center is the second one in the state, with the first opening in Las Vegas in February.
Since many people do not have the training and skills to provide child care, Bennett said the Child Care Center will be a source of that help for the Reno community.
The center offers resources for providers in terms of training, financial support, child care subsidy assistance, licensing and access to business ideas through a partnership with early educational organizations Wonderschool and supportive services through Candelen.
“We have a deeply fractured child care system,” said Elquist, adding that child care providers have a difficult job and should not be paid poverty level wages while not having access to healthcare benefits.
“Anything that we do to take the burden off our providers is going to go a long way to help them continue working in this field,” she said.
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