An organization of Mississippi child care providers says frustration is mounting over the lack of information about coronavirus federal relief grants.
COVID-19 has led to some child care centers closing and others struggling to stay open in Mississippi. Deloris Suel is President of Child Care Directors Network. She says the Department of Human Services isn’t keeping child care providers updated on when they can apply for some of the $319 million in American Rescue Plan grants. She says a meeting Wednesday with officials didn’t help.
“They continue to say they’re waiting on guidance. Basically they said there is one thing that they were waiting on and it was very minor. I just think we could have been further on the way because the application could have been out at least guidelines to the application,” Suel said.
Vicki Lowery is Co-Director of the Division of Early Childhood Care and Development with the state Department of Human Services. She says DHS is getting $500 million for child care related funding from the American Rescue Plan, with that $319 million strictly for childcare providers. She says they expect to begin the application process in several weeks.
“October 1, we put the initial information on our website about Phase I of the ARP funding. We'll advertise for a couple of weeks, make sure child care providers that are eligible know about it and then we’ll open up the application process for that, Lowery said.
Lowery adds DHS also received two other federal relief allocations totaling $198 million last year. Sixty-five million dollars came from the CARES Act and $133 million from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act. She says the funds support working families with limited income and those eligible for child care subsidies.
Lowery says they've begun support and referral centers for childcare providers, provided an additional 25 percent to owners based on enrollment. and covered the cost of children who didn't return to child care centers because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
DHS has distributed the CARES Act funds and some of the CRRSA monies says Lowery. Now she says they are working to obtain documents from some recipients of CARES Act funds. Lowery also says the department is hiring 40 workers to help with managing federal relief funds.