Gov. Evers announces additional $30M CARES Act funds to support early care, education providers

Childcare workers in facemasks play with toddlers

MADISON, Wis. — Gov. Tony Evers announced Thursday that more federal coronavirus aid money will be directed toward supporting early care and education providers.

Evers said that an additional $30 million of federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act — CARES Act — dollars funds will allow the Department of Children and Families to conduct an additional round of Child Care Counts payments.

“As I’ve said before, what’s best for our kids is what’s best for our state,” Evers said in a statement. “Our early care educators stepped up in a big way for Wisconsin families – and their kids – to help keep our state’s economy strong during the pandemic. Frankly, our state needs them now more than ever.”

Access to safe, affordable, quality child care has risen to the forefront for Wisconsin families as the new school year begins. Yet the early care and education sector is still reeling from the impact of COVID-19.

At the height of the public health emergency, 1,729 of 4,444 providers closed their doors. That number has decreased from about 39 percent to just over 12 percent of providers remaining closed as of Aug. 27.

The Wisconsin Tomorrow plan from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. also highlighted the importance of early care and education to the state’s economy. The report notes the role access to early care and education plays in returning everyone, but especially women, to the workforce.

Department of Children and Families Secretary Emilie Amundson said Wisconsin families rely on child care to work.

“That is especially true for women, who still carry a disproportionate burden raising children,” Amundson said. “The additional funding the state is providing to early care and education will help to stabilize the industry and ensure families have safe and reliable options for care.”

Evers’ office said the Child Care Counts: COVID-19 Supplementary Payment Program is designed to help counter those trends. The additional round of funding will be distributed through two, new programs targeted at the current challenges early care and education providers are facing. Applications and program eligibility details will be available starting Wednesday on DCF’s website, with the application window closing Sept. 18. Payment notifications will be issued on Sept. 26.

Evers office explained there will be two individual payment programs. One is designed to support the costs of maintaining or enhancing compliance status, quality level (YoungStar rating) and increasing health and safety practices. Funds will help ensure high-quality care is available across state, specifically at younger ages where reasonable alternatives to child care do not exist. Another individual payment program pertains to staffing. Evers said that as providers move back to regular operations, many have struggled to bring back staff due to depressed wages. The program is designed to support the costs associated with recruiting and retaining high-quality staff.

In addition to the individual payments for eligible early care and education providers, the State Emergency Operation Center has made personal protective equipment, also called PPE, available for providers statewide. The governor’s office said DCF is finalizing a survey that will be distributed to all regulated providers with information about how PPE can be accessed and distributed within the week.