April 18, 2024 11:10 am

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Commerce awards over $2 million to address highest priority child care shortages

OLYMPIA—The Clearwater School Well Being Center located in Bothell, was one of 18 recipients of the Child Care Partnership Grants by the Washington State Department of Commerce. In April of 2023, The Clearwater School was awarded $250,000 by the Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers to operate Youth and Family Resource Centers in South County.

The Commerce Department announced that over $2 million were awarded to organizations for local planning and pre-design efforts to expand child care capacity in communities across the Washington state.  Funding for the first year of these two-year awards includes up to $430,000 from Ballmer Group, $300,000 from the Bezos Family Foundation and $350,000 from state general funds. Commerce received 56 grant applications requesting $6.62 million in funding.

“The Washington State Department of Commerce’s deep commitment to helping ensure all Washington families have access to quality child care is an example of how, together, we can work to best support children in our region,” said Bezos Family Foundation President John Deasy. Child Care Partnership grant recipients are awarded two years of funding with Year 2 funding contingent upon performance and availability of funds.

Name of OrganizationLocationYear 1
Year 2
Asia Pacific Cultural CenterPierce County$48,000$39,000
Center for Inclusive EntrepreneurshipAdams County$77,900$62,000
DJH Kids and Community CenterPacific County$75,600$52,200
Educational Service District 123SE Washington (multiple counties)$65,400$71,900
Excelsior WellnessSpokane County$41,000$80,000
HIP of Spokane County (DBA Community-Minded Enterprises)Adams County$71,000
Kwanza Preparatory AcademyKing County$40,000
Okanogan County Child Development AssociationOkanogan County$75,900$60,300
Olympic Peninsula YMCAClallam and Jefferson Counties$68,000$62,700
Raze DevelopmentSpokane County$72,000$57,700
Rural Resources Community ActionFerry, Pend Oreille, and Stevens Counties$50,000$75,000
Shore Metropolitan Park DistrictClallam County$69,000$55,500
Somali Childcare Provider AssociationKing County$60,300$79,000
The Clearwater School Well Being CenterSnohomish County$60,000$76,900
United Way of the Blue MountainsColumbia and Walla Walla Counties$54,000$45,500
Vashon Youth & Family ServicesKing County$53,200
Voices of TomorrowKing County$54,000$80,000
Washington Gorge Action ProgramsKlickitat County$30,000$40,000

Across the state, 63% of children live in areas with inadequate child care, which reduces the state workforce by approximately 133,000 people, according to a report from the Child Care Collaborative Task Force.

“Access to affordable, quality child care is an economic issue, and it looks different in every community,” said Commerce Director Mike Fong. “This grant program is one way the Department of Commerce is working to support innovative public-private collaborations that help communities define and develop plans that address their unique and highest priority child care needs.”

The Child Care Collaborative Task Force report also documented increased stress in the child care industry since the COVID pandemic. Parents, employers and child care providers continue to face deep challenges, such as high costs of care, low wages for child care workers and employers unable to attract enough employees. The report points to the need for increased community collaboration to successfully address child care shortages.

“The market alone won’t fix child care without additional investments in community planning,” said Cheryl Smith, Commerce director of community engagement and outreach. “Our approach involves supporting local coalitions in identifying and pursuing child care solutions that are most appropriate to them. We’re thrilled to have ongoing funding from Ballmer Group and the Bezos Family Foundation for this important local capacity building program.”

Smith noted that the department hopes to support more historically marginalized and underserved communities that face higher barriers to affordable, quality child care.

The Child Care Partnership grant program, initiated in 2020, focuses on expanding access in communities with limited or no child care options. To date, the grants have supported 41 community partnerships in 28 counties with $4.7 million in planning assistance. Many awarded projects have used the funding to help prepare for and meet prerequisites for capital funding, including from Commerce’s Early Learning Facilities program.

“The CCPG funding allowed our rural hospital the staff time to develop partnerships, hire experts, and develop a plan and design for childcare for our community and workforce. The funding we used for baseline data and designs were essential to the next funding request success. We are now fully funded and will break ground soon,” said Dr. Molly Parker of Jefferson Healthcare on designing a new 42-slot child care facility on the Olympic Peninsula, Jefferson County

In addition to the Early Learning Facilities capital investments, Commerce also administers Family Friendly Workplaces, offering professional, no-cost business consultations to support employers.

“Local communities developing solutions through partnerships has wide-ranging benefits. Building awareness, relationships, and capacity focused on child care are important for children, families, and communities in the immediate and long term. We are happy to be a partner in supporting this work to improve access to high-quality, affordable care – with awareness of where the need is most acute across Washington state,” said Leslie Dozono, Senior Portfolio Manager, Ballmer Group.

FEATURED IMAGE: The Clearwater School


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