JACKSON, Miss. (WLOX) - Mississippi officials are donating a significant portion of CARES Act money to helping child care centers stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Thursday, the Mississippi Department of Human Services announced $47 million will go to child care centers. That money money is part of the $2.2 trillion economic stimulus package passed by Congress in March.
Owner and director of May’s Little Lambs in Moss Point Mary Odom is no stranger to the tough times child care centers are facing because of COVID-19. After being closed for nearly four and a half months, the doors to Mary’s Little Lambs are open one again, but only at 60% capacity.
“I’m licensed for 58 and I have 35, so that’s a big drop, but we’re still having to pay the teachers to be here. So it’s very hard. It’s a challenging time for us also to make sure that we can pay our staff so they will be able to teach and take care of the boys and girls,” Odom said.
Parents are also eligible to apply for assistance from the CARES Act funding.
“I have five parents that have applied for it and one received their certificate on Monday, so it’s basically the same, and I had four to receive theirs on Tuesday. So they have a zero copay. So MDHS going to pay for everything. So that’s a blessing. That’s real good,” Odom said.
The money has been allocated into three different avenues of support.
- $8.2 million in Emergency Certificates that allow essential and emergency personnel, to receive assistance in paying for child care.
- $13.9 million in enhanced rates and enrollment-based payments designed to help ensure child care centers survive the pandemic.
- $7.3 million to pay co-payments for parents to further stabilize provider income streams while eliminating an extra expense for families
In addition to these incentives, $4 million has been designated for providing health and safety personal protective equipment for child care centers. MDHS had previously provided personal protective equipment and other supplies to the 12 hardest hit counties in Mississippi.
MDHS is planning to use $13.6 million as one-time cash assistance for child care centers, and that project is in the final implementation phases.
“Parents need to be able to work and contribute to the economic recovery of Mississippi without worrying about whether their children are going to be safe,” said MDHS Executive Director Robert G. “Bob” Anderson. “Every day we see businesses filing bankruptcy as a result of this pandemic. We are committed to using all resources at our disposal to ensure child care centers survive and thrive.”
Child care providers were hit hard by the onset of the novel coronavirus, causing many centers to suspend operation during the crisis and unsure whether they would be able to restart.
“I often say child care represents the backbone of the workforce,” said Dr. Chad Allgood, Deputy Director of MDHS Division of Early Childhood Care and Development. “Without child care we couldn’t work. It is extremely important that we understand how important child care is, and the funding we receive is just part of the support that we can throw behind our child care providers.”
To learn more about the Division of Early Childhood Care and Development and how to apply for child care assistance, click HERE.