Santa Clara County is steering $15 million into expanding childcare services in the county, officially launching last week a grant program that was approved in February.
Funds can be used by recipients for facility improvements and operating costs, including rent and wages.
The county Board of Supervisors allocated the funds earlier this year from the American Rescue Plan Act to make grants available to both in-home and commercial childcare providers through the Childcare and Early Education Infrastructure Grant Program.
Supervisor Susan Ellenberg said the expensive cost of construction and real estate in Santa Clara County made it difficult for small business operators to expand their operations. The pandemic caused staffing and other disruptions that created challenges to restarting some businesses.
“The pandemic closed hundreds of childcare providers throughout the county, and it is imperative to bring both the childcare facilities and workforce to meet the demand,” Ellenberg said.
There are 1,796 childcare providers in the county. More than 700 have closed over the past decade, including at least 161 that shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the county.
“Santa Clara County, like much of the state and nation, is experiencing a critical need for childcare and early education made worse by childcare closures during the pandemic,” said Sarah Duffy, the county’s Chief Children’s Officer. “High-quality, affordable childcare is an essential resource for families while parents and caregivers are working or in school, particularly for low-income families.”
The grant program will be administered by Valley Health Foundation, the county’s nonprofit health care provider.
Jocelyn Arenas, a 19-year-old student at De Anza Community College and a mother of two who is also a board member for the county’s continuum of care, said at a press conference announcing the grant program that she had struggled to find the right childcare in the past. She thanked the county for pursuing options for expanding services.
“Childcare is important, even if you don’t have kids, your neighbor, your coworker, your friend, family member, whoever, somebody you know has kids,” Arenas said. “And that’s why it’s so critical, and I’m so grateful that the county and state has moved to invest in early childcare infrastructure, so that all parents can have the access to the childcare of their choosing and they can have the opportunities that they want for themselves.”
Pre-eligibility applications for providers are available at https://tinyurl.com/vwd4xbht or by emailing [email protected]. Webinars from Valley Health Foundation to help with applications will be available in October.
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