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Grants available for new and existing child care and pre-K programs in 33 counties

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Grants of up to $125,000 are available from the state for licensed child care programs to cover capital or quality improvement costs, and for entities planning to open new programs.

The General Assembly in its 2021 budget allocated $20 million in nonrecurring funds to expand child care access, prioritizing support for counties considered child care deserts and low-performing or high-poverty school districts.

The Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) is now accepting applications for Early Care and Learning Expansion and Access Grants for the following counties: Anson, Bertie, Bladen, Caldwell, Caswell, Columbus, Davidson, Duplin, Edgecombe, Graham, Greene, Halifax, Hertford, Hoke, Iredell, Jones, Lenoir, Martin, Mitchell, Nash, New Hanover, Northampton, Pasquotank, Randolph, Robeson, Rowan, Scotland, Swain, Tyrrell, Vance, Warren, Washington, and Wayne.

The first application period, for individuals in those counties, will close May 1 at 5 p.m. The second round of applications, for individuals anywhere in North Carolina, opens May 22 at 8:30 a.m. and closes June 12 at 5 p.m. 

Any facility that is licensed is eligible to apply: family child care homes and centers, including facilities hosting NC Pre-K classrooms. Programs may have any star rating. Entities or individuals may apply who are not currently licensed but are planning to open a licensed facility.

The amount of the grant will be based on the division’s analysis of the project plan and project budget, according to Elizabeth Everette, DCDEE’s assistant director of subsidy services. The grants are capped at $125,000, and there is no minimum grant amount.

For individuals or entities requesting grants for start-up costs, facilities must be regulated or licensed, open, and accepting children on or before December 31, 2024.

The money also may be used for capital projects and renovations, as well as quality improvements that increase the facility’s capacity or upgrade the program’s star rating.

The number of child care facilities in North Carolina decreased by almost 12% from January 2018 to November 2022, Everette said on a webinar about the grants last week.

“It’s concerning because it means we have less licensed child care facilities to help our families,” Everette said.

Early childhood advocates are hoping for a $300 million allocation from the legislature this session to continue a separate grant program aimed at keeping child care centers open and increasing child care teacher wages. DCDEE has been distributing one-time federal relief funds to child care programs that run out this year. The $300 million request is aimed at avoiding that funding cliff.

Those funds were not included in the House budget. Rep. David Willis, R-Union, has told EducationNC that he expects those funds to make it into the final budget. Willis is a child care center owner and a co-chair of the early childhood legislative caucus.

Liz Bell

Liz Bell is the early childhood reporter for EducationNC.