City Council this week approved a $3 million relief fund to assist local child care centers remain open to serve families during the pandemic. Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Health Equity Response (H.E.R.) Task Force will partner on the relief fund with Collaborative for Children, a local non-profit that works to improve the quality of early childhood education and care for Houston’s children.
“We know many Houstonians must return to their workplaces but have limited care options for their children,” said Mayor Turner. “This funding will allow parents to place their children in safe, high-quality child care centers while they’re working.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the Collaborative for Children quickly identified child care centers as being particularly vulnerable to a public health crisis and economic downturn. The Collaborative surveyed more than 700 child care providers who shared their immediate COVID-19 challenges and the pandemic’s impact on their capacity to care for children. A quarter had closed because of the pandemic. Those that remained open suffered financial stress due to a severe drop in enrollment along with increased operating costs related to new state and federal COVID-19 guidelines.
“The well-being of our children is critical to Houston’s future,” said Dr. Melanie Johnson, CEO of Collaborative for Children. “These funds will eliminate early childhood education barriers that affect underserved populations. On behalf of Collaborative for Children, I commend the extensive work done by members of the H.E.R. Task Force and our city leaders to protect one of our most precious resources—the hearts and minds of our little ones.”
The Collaborative will use the $3 million relief fund to administer child care rental assistance stipends to its current Center of Excellence programs and additional programs identified in targeted vulnerable communities. Up to 100 local child care centers are expected to receive assistance.
“The Mayor’s H.E.R Task Force has been focused on providing equitable relief and recovery to our most vulnerable Houstonians affected by COVID-19,” said Marissa Aho, Chief Resilience Officer and a leader of the Mayor’s H.E.R. Task Force. “Through this funding, we are able to support child care facilities' ability to continue to provide children with quality daycare so their caregivers, many of whom are essential workers, can continue to do their work with peace of mind that their children are in a safe environment.”
To qualify, a child care center must be located in identified vulnerable communities, in a child care desert, or in low-income/underserved communities. They must serve children from birth to 5 years, be directly impacted by COVID-19 causing enrollment declines or closure and be a Workforce Solutions Vendor, which means they serve families that receive child care subsidies. If a child care program qualifies, it will be eligible to receive reimbursement for past rental payments dating from May 2020, monthly stipends to cover the remaining rental expenses through December 30, 2020, and access to business administration training modules.
The relief fund is part of the $400 million in CARES Act funding provided to the City of Houston.