Governor Cooper Supports Early Childhood: See Visits to Child Care Programs as North Carolina Releases the NC Child Care Stabilization Grants

Gov. Cooper sitting with children and teachers at Irene Wortham Early Learning Center on Nov. 9, 2021. Photo credit: NC Government

COVID-19 has shown our communities what Child Care Services Association has always known—the child care workforce keeps our economy running. Yet, early childhood teachers continue to earn low wages with little to no benefits despite the important work they do for our children.

“Child care is essential to healthy child development and helping parents succeed in the workforce,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said when visiting the Irene Wortham Early Learning Center in Asheville, N.C., last week.

In October and November, Gov. Cooper visited four different child care programs in Carrboro, Charlotte, Walkertown and Asheville to encourage child care programs to apply for the North Carolina Child Care Stabilization Grants.

This historic, one-time federal $805 million investment in North Carolina’s early care and education field will help provide working families with access to high-quality, affordable child care and support child care programs as they recruit and retain staff, allowing them to provide better wages and benefits to teachers and promoting equity for all children, parents and teachers.

Anna Mercer-McLean speaking with Gov. Cooper behind her at press conference on Oct. 7, 2021. Photo Credit: Julia Wall of News & Observer

“Meeting the needs of our families, young children and our state’s economy depends on high-quality early care and learning teachers,” said Ariel S. Ford, NCDHHS Director of Division of Child Development and Early Education. “Child Care Stabilization Grants will allow North Carolina’s early care and learning programs to attract and keep well-prepared education professionals.”

“As a child care director, we are thrilled that the Child Care Stabilization Grants are here to provide relief during COVID-19. We have been surviving for the last 18 months, now we feel like we will have an opportunity to sustain the essential early care and education services needed by our children and their families,” saidAnna Mercer-McLean, Director of Community School for People under Six (CSPU6) located in Carborro, N.C. “CSPU6 values its great staff; and will be using these funds to increase base salary rates, improve health benefits, provide mental health support, complete needed facility improvements to sustain our program, and maintain [health] and safety at the center.”

Gov. Cooper speaking with Rhonda Williams and a teacher of LeafSpring School on Oct. 21, 2021. Photo Credit: NC Government

Rhonda Rivers, Regional Director of Curriculum and Training at LeafSpring School in Charlotte, N.C., and member of the state’s Child Care Commission, said, “The funds from the stabilization grants will allow us to provide ongoing bonuses for our staff in the effort to recruit and retain high-quality teachers to continue our efforts to provide a safe, nurturing community for kids and families.”

The NC Child Care Stabilization Grants are made possible from the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act and could be supported by the Build Back Better Plan. President Biden’s Build Back Better framework, currently being negotiated in Congress, would invest billions of dollars in high-quality child care. The plan includes universal preschool for all 3- and 4-year olds and an expansion of the child tax credit.

Gov. Cooper posing with the staff of Church Childcare Center Inc. on Oct. 28, 2021. Photo Credit: NC Government

Child Care Services Association applauds Governor Cooper and all involved for helping to make the NC Child Care Stabilization Grants available to child care programs, which are overwhelmingly women-owned small businesses.

All private, licensed early care and learning programs are eligible to apply, including for-profit and not-for-profit programs, family child care homes and faith-based centers. Programs that apply and receive stabilization grants may use the funds for a range of activities, including personnel costs, mental health supports, payments for rent, mortgage, utilities, facility maintenance or insurance, personal protective equipment (PPE), equipment and supplies and goods or services necessary to maintain or resume child care.

Applications are open on a rolling basis. To access the application, or to learn more about the program, visit ncchildcare.ncdhhs.gov/Home/Stabilization-Grants.