Thurston County Child Care Access Initiative

Thurston County Child Care Capacity Grant

BACKGROUND

For many working families, child care remains difficult to secure or afford. While this is not a new challenge, it was exacerbated during the COVID pandemic and subsequent ripple effects. The industry faces many complexities, but primary barriers to facilitating access and sustainability include:

  • Loss of workforce that has not returned, proven difficult to replace
  • Lower than average workforce wages that make recruitment difficult in a tight labor market
  • New operating rules that further reduce already thin profit margins and dissuade new providers
  • Economic instability of working families seeking service but unable to find opens slots

Data shows women, low-income and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) families are most impacted by the current lack of access. This includes child care workers and working families seeking service alike. In particular, those unable to secure affordable child care options relative to earning ability are most likely to exit the workforce.

Washington State has instituted multiple programs to help bridge the divide. For example, the Working Connections Child Care program provides subsidy payment for any/all verified lower-income families. Even with these impactful tools, child care is unattainable for many due to insufficient provider capacity.

Pending federal legislation and budget allotments to address this issue could take months or years to arrive. The Board of Commissioners is evaluating how it might invest ARPA funds designated for COVID response and recovery purposes to help ameliorate COVID impacts to the child care industry and help bridge the gap for working families until more sustainable solutions arrive.

Grant Program

This is the fourth round of child care grants supported by Thurston County. In prior rounds, the County sought to help providers weather the peak span of the pandemic. The goal of the current round of grants will be to increase access for income-constrained families as more people return to work. Eligibility and application requirements are outlined for each new grant program below.

Grants are offered through Thurston Strong, the organizing body for Thurston County pandemic response that supports businesses, workers and working families. An estimated $1.8 Million (36 grants) is available to support the Added Capacity Grant.

About the Added Capacity Grant

The Added Capacity Grant supports existing child care operators that add or restore capacity. Funds can be used to add staff or other improvements (e.g., facility improvements) that enable providers to serve more families enrolled in the Washington State Working Connections Child Care program. For information on Working Connections, please visit: (https://www.dcyf.wa.gov/services/earlylearning-childcare/getting-help/wccc).

These households earn up to 94% of State Median Income but do not currently have access to child care due to capacity limitations. It is anticipated that a $50,000 provider grant will support one of the following enrollment outcomes: 2 infants, 4 toddlers or 5 preschoolers (or equivalent).

Eligible applicants will then be submitted for final approval to the Thurston Economic Development Council as fiscal agent for all Thurston Strong grant programs. Successful recipients are required to supply outcome information (e.g., number of children served, new providers hired) as part of the evaluation component of this grant program. Compliance with the Working Connections slot requirement will be verified.

This is a rolling application and submittals will be reviewed as received. Awards will be designated upon confirmation of applicant viability until all funds are exhausted. All applicants will be notified of results.

To apply for the Added Capacity Child Care Grant, please click the link below. Once you have answered all required questions, click submit and your application will automatically be uploaded to our portal. An administrator will be in touch to confirm receipt or request additional documentation as necessary. Please allow up to four weeks for a response, though we expect to be in touch sooner.