BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — On Thursday afternoon, Erie County announced a plan to dedicate up to $20 million of federal funding from the CARES Act to address child care issues in the county.
The Erie County Emergency Child Care Task Force, led by Deputy County Executive Maria White, surveyed 7,000 parents in the county to see how many had unaddressed needs as the new school year begins. It also surveyed child care providers with the help of the Childcare Resource Network. The task force found that the existing capacity within Erie County's child care system was "nowhere near sufficient," according to White.
Following its research, which was also aided by BOCES and local school districts, the task force chose to allocate up to $20 million from the CARES Act.
The funding will be distributed as follows:
- Up to $4 million will be distributed directly to child care providers who have experienced financial hardship due to COVID-19.
- Up to $10 million will be spent to replenish and expand existing childcare subsidies to those making up to 85% of the New York State median household income.
- Up to $11 million will be spent to create new "virtual learning support centers" across the county, through a partnership with school districts and BOCES.
The virtual learning support centers will be designed to provide a "safe educational setting," and will be supervised.
The Erie County Office of Geographic Information Services (GIS) is assisting school districts to help them identify locations where support centers could be opened.
The grant process for school districts to open support centers will begin immediately and is available on the Erie County website. Grant applications are due September 14th, and awards will be announced on September 21. The county expects some programs to be fully operational by October 5th.
Parents can find out more about the child care subsidy and submit an application through the Department of Social Services.
The application process for child care providers is still being finalized.