By Beau Evans
Georgia children and their families are set to benefit from a boost in funding for daycare centers and scholarships for struggling parents to cover child-care costs amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than $92 million to help offset attendance losses has been sent to thousands of daycare centers by the Georgia Department of Child Care and Learning (DECAL), the agency announced this month.
Those funds came from $144 million DECAL received from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The first funding round went to 3,789 licensed daycares followed by a second round to 3,677 daycares in December.
Officials noted daycares are experiencing financial strain as attendance is still way down due to many schools continuing to require students to take virtual classes more than nine months out from the pandemic’s onset.
“We know that family child-care learning homes and child-care learning centers in Georgia are struggling as a result of COVID-19,” DECAL Commissioner Amy Jacobs said earlier this month.
Additionally, a scholarship program helping low-income parents pay for child-care services if their children’s schools still only offer online classes was expanded to cover children and young adults with disabilities from ages 5 to 22, officials announced. The program initially only covered ages 5 to 12.
More than 4,000 daycare scholarships have been given out so far from the $17 million in federal aid for eligible families whose incomes do not exceed 85% of the state median annual income – roughly $44,000 for a single parent with one child or just under $65,000 for a family of four.
Gov. Brian Kemp allowed daycares and preschools to reopen in mid-May after lifting a monthlong shelter-in-place order for Georgians and as he began to ease restrictions on businesses.
“Throughout the pandemic, we have remained laser-focused on ensuring that parents can return to work safely with the knowledge that their children are well taken care of,” Kemp said in a statement. “This expansion of the [scholarships] to cover children and young adults with disabilities enables us to expand that opportunity to more families in our state.”
Parents can apply for the scholarships at www.gateway.ga.gov/access.