The Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) recently announced the expansion of the Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) stabilization grants to help sustain childcare providers and enable families to find care. With the expansion, childcare providers across the Commonwealth will receive approximately $450 million in federal funds through June 2022, six months longer than the original length of the grant program. The grants will also include bonuses to childcare providers that increase salaries and benefits for their workers or expand capacity and services for their parents.
The focus of this innovative bonus program is to help childcare businesses recruit and retain a stable workforce to address the childcare staffing shortages that limit families’ ability to find childcare. EEC will hold public meetings and opportunities for engagement in different regions of the Commonwealth to gather feedback from childcare providers as the bonus program is finalized and rolled out.
EEC also announced a four percent overall rate increase to providers that serve subsidized families, totaling more than $20 million, which could also help boost childcare workers’ pay.
“We can help support families across the Commonwealth find child care by creating more opportunities for child care providers to attract and retain quality educators using this investment,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “With this critical support to address the workforce shortage, we remain committed to providing the necessary resources to ensure that stable, high-quality care is available for families as they navigate an evolving work environment.”
“We are very pleased to make these vital investments to ensure our early education and care providers can recruit and retain the staff they need to deliver high-quality services,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “This significant support will build upon the previous progress we have made with our colleagues in the Legislature and will help ensure providers can retain well-qualified teachers who help our youngest learners become ready for academic success in school.”
Through the C3 grant program, EEC provides monthly operational stipends to support childcare infrastructure during the recovery period. The bonus plan will award childcare providers an additional $15 for each available childcare slot if it meets certain criteria related to retaining and recruiting staff, increases salaries and benefits or extends hours of care. The C3 grants were launched in the summer of 2021 and will now be extended through the end of June 2022. By the end of December, the program will have distributed approximately $170 million to childcare providers. The bonuses will be awarded to programs from March until June 2022.
“This bonus program is the type of innovation needed for providers to be responsive to families and businesses during the current environment. By investing in programs to sustain capacity now and laying the groundwork for the future, the Commonwealth will build a stronger, more resilient, and responsive child care field for families,” said Education Secretary James Peyser.
“We know that sustaining the child care sector is vital for families to return to work. We are working hard to ensure child care employers have the resources they need to retain and recruit a strong workforce with strategies designed at the local level by those who best know the needs of their communities,” said EEC Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy. “EEC’s goal with this C3 grant program is to provide flexibility for programs that invest in compensation enhancements that are most meaningful to their employees.”
The EEC Board also voted to institute a subsidy rate increase for early education programs that provide care for low-income families, totaling more than $20 million. This latest increase brings the total amount of increases for early education and care providers who accept state subsidies to more than $177 million during the past six years. The increase, funded through the FY22 state budget and appropriated by the Legislature, will be retroactive to July 1. The rate increase ensures that all providers across the Commonwealth reach a threshold level of state support, based on the market rates in each region.
“Providing high quality education and care to working families with young children depends on a well-supported workforce of educators and providers; they are the cornerstone of quality,” said EEC Board Chair Nonie Lesaux. “Providing funds for the system and a bonus for these educators will have a vital impact at this moment.”
This funding is in addition to approximately $36 million in CARES Act grants that were distributed in the summer/fall of 2020 to assist with childcare reopening after the system-wide closure in March 2020. Last year the Administration also made available $30 million in Workforce & Facilities Grants for EEC critical infrastructure support. This included workforce grants to center-based providers who serve state-subsidized families and grants to family childcare providers to make health and safety improvements in their facilities.