EVERETT, Wash., July 7, 2023—Snohomish County Executive Dave Sommers announced the county’s investment of $7.6 million from its American Rescue Plan Act dollars to fund nearly 360 new child care slots fulfilling one of the key priorities community members identified in the countywide Pandemic Recovery Roadshow. These dollars are expected to fund access for high-quality child care benefiting families over the next 20 years.
Snohomish County is one of the worst areas for child care access in Washington State, comparative to the number of children who need them, according to Somers. An estimated 80% of residents live in an extreme “child care desert,” Somers said during Thursday’s presser. According to Child Care Aware, there are 62 slots of child care in the county for every 100 infants, toddlers, or preschoolers which is far below the state average of 79 slots per 100 children.
Even if parents can find child care options in the county it’s seldom affordable, costing approximately $14,000 per year—more than an entire year of tuition at both the University of Washington and Washington State University.
“A major barrier to people joining or returning to the workforce is the lack of available and affordable child care. The effects of child care deserts across our county impact all of us, but they have an even more acute impact on women, who are pushed out of the job market at higher rates due to the extremely high cost of child care,” said Executive Somers. “That’s why we are expanding access for communities across our county, particularly in places where child care is already extremely scarce.”
The announcement took place on July 6 at Rise Up Academy — an early learning for Pre-Kindergarten and Elementary students that also offers after school programs. Rise Up Academy will be receiving $2 million of the county’s ARPA funds to expand its services and serve a larger number of children with high-quality education. It also hopes to secure additional federal funding in the amount of $24 million to fund an expansion that will add two stories to its learning center. The result will be nearly 65,000 square feet making room for affordable housing, early child care, and expanding services from 75 to 165 children.
Mike Shaffer, member of the Rise Up Academy’s building Committee, informed the Lynnwood Times that an estimated 20% of those living in the affordable housing units would have children in need of child care. The project is seeking a conditional use permit currently and hopes to begin detailed design this fall. If fundraising efforts go according to plan, the expansion will be breaking ground next Spring, Shaffer said.
“We are honored to be recipients of this federal American Rescue Plan Act allocation,” said Dr. Paul A. Stoot Sr., CEO and Executive Director of Rise Up Academy. “Each one of us that are recipients of this have an integral part with dynamic networking, of fostering and nurturing the diamonds of the children that we are given responsible care to in this county. This grant is not just a sum of money to us but it represents a tremendous opportunity to transform lives and to shape the future of our community.”
Seattle-born professional football player Terry Metcalf, now Curriculum Specialist at Rise Up Academy, drives up to Everett every day to teach his curriculum to both children and teachers alike but the academy’s link to professional sports does not end there. In honor of receiving $2 million of the county’s ARPA dollars, NBA Hall-of-Famer Lennie Wilkens, who was a member of the 1992 U.S. Olympic Dream Team and carried the Seattle Supersonics to a championship victory in 1978 as head coach, was also brought to the podium to share a few words.
“Young people are receptive, they can learn, they can make a difference. With the world we live in today we gotta make a difference or else we’re not going to be here,” said Wilkens. “This is our future here and [the children] are going to be those doctors, those lawyers, those truck drivers – they’re the future.”
Dominque Gibson, Rise Up Academy volunteer, shared with the Lynnwood Times her reading level was below average when she began attending Rise Up as a child. The Academy raise her reading level above standard and is now an avid reader. Dominque now gives one-on-one instruction to children for reading at Rise Up and will be attending Seattle Pacific University this fall to study Computer Science.
“It feels like a loving family to give back to an environment where so many people are so caring,” said Gibson about returning to volunteer at an institution which gave her so much. “My favorite part about coming here is the children. They’re nice, they’re lovely, and they’re almost like your younger sibling in a way.”
Rise Up Academy was just one of six awarded projects along with Volunteers of America’s Lynnwood Neighborhood Center (awarded $2 million), Housing Hope’s Tomorrow’s Hope Child Development Center, Camp Fire Snohomish County’s Camp Killoqua Child Care Center (awarded $1 million), Boys and Girls Club of Snohomish County’s Edmonds Club Child Care (awarded $1 million), and Latino Educational Training Institute’s Incubators for Families’ Success (awarded $656,193).
Five out of six of these projects are located in extreme “child care deserts” which is a Census term to indicate an area has at least 50 children under the age of five that contains either no child care providers, or so few options that there are more than three times as many children as licensed child care slots. Additionally, these areas largely serve families that are at, or below, 65% the area median income.
The programs were chosen by a county-led competitive process with 15 different organizations applying. The decision criteria were available child care slots, financial need, and an organization’s ability to complete projects within a short timeframe.
“Four of the five county districts are within a five-minutes drive of Rise Up Academy,” County Councilman Sam Low told the Lynnwood Times. “I grew up less than a mile from the school, so this opportunity to give back to my old stomping grounds is humbling and heartfelt.”
The allocation of the county’s ARPA funds were approved by the Snohomish County Council, particularly Council President Jared Mead and Vice Chair Nate Nehring who worked closely with Executive Somers on appropriating the funds, Somers said Thursday.
On the federal side, Representative Rick Larsen (WA-02) was instrumental in spearheading the effort for the American Plan Act Fund allocation to Snohomish County in 2021.
“[With these dollars] 360 more children will have an opportunity to succeed in Snohomish County; not just in the county but across the state there are child care deserts and this investment in child care access is very critical,” Rep. Larsen told attendees. “We know that the pandemic exasperated an already existing child care access shortage but we also know that these ARP dollars will help close that gap…The county is putting those dollars to work as they should be put to work.”