The state of Montana will be directing $50 million in federal coronavirus relief money toward maintaining and expanding child care and support for Montana families.
“As more Montanans return to work and families prepare for the upcoming school year, we must ensure there are options to provide high quality and flexible care during this emergency,” Gov. Steve Bullock said. “In addition to filling gaps in care for families, this funding will also sustain providers as they work to maintain and expand childcare options to ensure that even in challenging times, our kids can still receive the care and education fundamental to our state’s future.”
The goal of the funding is to increase child care options for Montana families, and in turn help families get back to work.
“We want to make sure that families are able to get back to work, and also that families have the support that they need related to child care,” Jamie Palagi, Early Childhood and Family Support Division administrator. “Especially related to the pandemic and related to the school year with uncertain times, we need to make sure that families have the support they need to adjust to whatever the plans are for the school district and to make sure kids are taken care of so parents can go back to work.”
$30 million in gants will be available for organizations to support and build upon child care for school-age children during out of school time. This includes places that provide camps and other extracurricular activities.
An additional $10 million will be made available for families with special circumstances requiring in-home care, such as a child that has an underlying health condition that prevents them from attending traditional childcare at this time.
“Across the state, we know every [school district’s] plan looks a little different, and we know the needs of families are also different based on their unique circumstances,” said Palagi.
$8 million will be given as supplemental payments to all licensed and registered childcare facilities to maintain and expand child care slots.
Additionally, $2 million will go to Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies to assist with the funding for administration and outreach.
Palagi says the Department of Public Health and Human Services has received reports ranging from teachers to local government officials about the importance of childcare, and how it’s struggling due to COVID.
“We know it was a need in the spring and the summer, and we’re trying to anticipate what that need might be for the fall as well,” Palagi said. “There's still increased costs for those providers related to additional health and safety requirements and increased staffing.”
Palagi added child care is desperately needed right now for many families, and a service the state can’t afford to lose.
The childcare grants and scholarships will become available August 19th at https://covidrelief.mt.gov/ Payments to childcare facilities will begin to be processed on September 1st.