President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan last week, which includes $39 billion for the childcare industry. Georgia expects to receive about $1.57 billion to support childcare providers in the state.
The coronavirus pandemic was financially devastating for some centers. Georgia didn’t require providers to close, but some had to out of necessity. According to the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL), out of 4533 licensed childcare providers in the state, 4382 are open and 151 are closed.
“The [rescue] money can be used in several different ways,” says Mindy Binderman, executive director of the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students (GEEARS) “One, to continue stabilizing the childcare industry, which we know is really in dire straits because of the pandemic. In addition to that, there are funds that can be used to expand access for families. There’s funding in there that could potentially be used for mental health services.”
There’s also money for home visiting programs, mental health services, the federal Head Start program, and programs that serve developmentally disabled young children.
Early childhood advocates have been concerned about potential learning loss in young children during the pandemic, meaning many of them could start Pre-Kindergarten or Kindergarten behind. Binderman says some of the money in the ARP could help support students who may have been isolated during the pandemic.
“We know that those first five years of life set the foundation for everything that comes later,” she says. “What we want is to ensure that foundation is as strong as it can be. And certainly by expanding access for our lowest-income families who might need child care subsidies, this money can help that.”
Binderman says the pandemic revealed how critical the childcare industry is, especially for working families. She hopes that will spur long-term federal and state investments.