Gov. DeWine announces $650 million for child care providers

Gov. Mike DeWine getting a hug from a child at the Columbus Early Learning Center in Columbus at the Champion Avenue location.
Gov. DeWine visiting the Columbus Early Learning Center (CELC) in Columbus at the Champion Avenue location.
Posted at 6:29 PM, Mar 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-11 19:46:34-05

COLUMBUS, Ohio — While visiting the Columbus Early Learning Center (CELC) Friday, Gov. DeWine announced an additional $650 million in grants to help child care programs with costs related to the pandemic.

Fifty percent of child care centers had staffing issues and 37% had raised tuition from July to Nov. 2021, according to a report by Action for Children in Central Ohio. With this price hike, parents struggled with the increasing costs.

More than 200 centers closed between Feb. 2020 and Nov. 2021, the study showed. Without additional support, nearly one in five providers in the area didn't feel confident that they would still be open in three months.

Stories of staffing issues, enrollment depression and burnout plagued the child care industry for years since the pandemic began. DeWine said he wanted to use this opportunity at the CELC to share his gratitude for the workers.

"Their job has been very difficult and we salute them and thank them for what they have done and what they continue to do," he said. "They certainly are some of the unsung heroes of this last two years."

Back in December, the governor originally announced $150 million in child care grants, but has now decided to up that number substantially. Totaling $800 million, the grants focus on operating costs, workforce recruitment and retention, access development and mental health support. This would include PPE, wages, benefits, training, expanding classroom sizes and funds for stress reduction.

This funding came from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). When asked about his previous critiques of ARPA, DeWine said that he is going to "take that money."

"I have criticized some of the programs, I am not sure if I criticized that — but, look," the governor said. "My job as governor is to take that money and spend it in the best way that we can, working with the state legislature, and that's what we're going to continue to do."

“Immediately, these stabilization grants turn problems into solutions for so many issues – our staffing, our capacity, affordability for our families, and learning enrichment,” said Dr. Gina Ginn, director of CELC. “The fact that this could also positively affect the long-term health of our industry is a huge benefit.”

The facility actually changed Tashuana Hardy's life. When her daughter was just 6 months old, she enrolled her at the Champion Avenue location.

"CELC has since helped me and my family overcome multiple barriers," Hardy said.

She came to the center as a mother facing homelessness. Through this program, she had a place to send her children and eventually was offered a job as a teacher.

"I have been able to work constantly, providing for me and my family," she said.

DeWine’s team added that, already, more than $60 million in grant money has been given out to programs that have applied.

“Reliable, quality child care and early childhood education is essential for parents and caregivers who work and support their families,” DeWine said. “Child care providers are balancing employee shortages, changing demands, and increasing costs. These grants will help bring providers relief so that they can continue serving families.

"As long as I am governor of this state, we are focusing on young people," he said.

According to the Ohio Child Care Resource & Referral Association, these grants are available for ODJFS-regulated child care centers, family child care (FCC) type A and type B homes, in-home aides (IHA), and approved day camps, as well as Ohio Department of Education (ODE) licensed preschool (PS) and school-age (SA) programs that are approved to provide publicly funded child care (PFCC). ODJFS-regulated child care programs do not need to be participating in PFCC to be eligible to apply for these sub-grants; however, ODE programs must be approved to provide PFCC at the time of application. Ten percent of the funds will be used to develop efforts in support of services for child care programs and the children receiving care.

To learn the requirements, visit their website at OCCRRA.ORG.

Follow WEWS statehouse reporter Morgan Trau on Twitter and Facebook.