By Alfredo Santana
LOS ANGELES — With a deadline just days away, county leaders are urging licensed child care providers outside the city of Los Angeles to apply for a sizable recovery grant aimed at helping them overcome economic damages caused by COVID-19.
The goal of the Los Angeles County Child Care Provider Recovery Grant is to support child care centers to stay in business or reopen their doors, county Supervisor Holly Mitchell said at a recent press conference.
Grants from $15,000 to $80,000 are currently available for registered and licensed child care centers that were not part of the first round of awards for providers in the city of Los Angeles.
The deadline to apply is Feb. 28 at 11:59 p.m. It was extended from the original Feb. 14 deadline.
Mitchell, alongside Emilio Salas, executive director of the Los Angeles County Development Authority, said the grants will be awarded to centers located in the highest need areas, particularly to those that lost customers and are struggling to remain open.
“An equitable access to child care, quite frankly, has ultimately gotten worse as a result of the pandemic,” Mitchell said. “Many providers were forced to close their facilities for a variety of reasons. Some of these closures were temporary, while other closures were permanent.”
The supervisor said that the county estimates about 1,800 child care providers closed in 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, in a county that “did not have enough to begin with.”
A UCLA study titled “Access to Child Care in Los Angeles County: Recent Trends and COVID-19 Implications,” indicated that in December 2020 the county had 6,285 child care providers, and 49.7%, or about 3,080 were family day care sites. The study indicated there were 296 permanent child care center closures, resulting in a loss of 15,000 children slots.
“That has been devastating to the industry, and to the families that relied on them,” Mitchell said.
There is $20 million allocated from the federal American Rescue Plan to support about 500 child care grants, and each disbursement will be made based on the number of slots each facility is permitted.
For example, family day care providers with licenses to serve up to eight children are eligible to receive grants for $15,000, while centers licensed to care for up to 14 children can qualify for $30,000 grants.
Child care centers licensed for no more than 40 children may obtain grants worth $40,000, while providers that have permits to care for more than 40 kids can be awarded $80,000.
Mitchell emphasized the importance to stand with community-based small businesses that provide services for working-class families in need of quality child care near their households.
“For me that is plain and common sense,” she said. “The communities that were disproportionately hit deserve and should be entitled to a disproportionate investment.”
One blue-collar community ravaged byCOVID-19 infections and business closures at the height of the pandemic was Maywood.
The city is located at the highest need tier the county set to prioritize grants, and family day care sites there are struggling.
A female operator with Rodas Family Day Care, a provider on East 56th Street in Maywood, said she was aware of the Child care Provider Recovery Grant, but underscored the site had been inactive for awhile.
The woman, who only spoke Spanish and declined to give her name, said she was unsure whether she would reopen, despite the facility still holding an active license.
“I’m leaning towards leaving the business,” she said.
Before the pandemic, there were about 15 family day care and child care centers serving a total population of 81,508 in the cities of Bell, Cudahy and Maywood, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
According to Salas, more than 3,000 applications had been submitted online at www.lacountycprgrant.submittable.com/, with the facilities located at the highest tier slated to get about $10 million in economic relief.
Salas said that 349 out of 462 child care facilities that filed for grants in the first round were home-based and received $10 million in aid. The other 113 centers with larger capacities qualified for $40,000 awards.
“The second round is done much differently with the intent to fund centers in the high-need areas,” Salas said.
Betty Luckett, founder and CEO of From the Heart Preschool and Enrichment Center in Inglewood, encouraged child care operators that meet the criteria to apply using a form so easy to access that it took her only a minute to complete.
From the Heart Preschool is located in the second of five tiers, rated at high need of funding.
“We all know that the pandemic hit us hard as child care providers, and coming out of that has been difficult for all of us,” Luckett said. “This grant money will help improve our programs and help us continue to provide quality early childhood education and care to our communities.”
The entrepreneur thanked Mitchell for being a leader in search of equitable representation in government, and for making the application process “super simple.”
“I’m telling you, 60 seconds and I was done,” Luckett said.
In addition, the website has links to tutorial videos in English and Spanish with steps and advice on how to answer questions in the application, and to guides in several languages
The application has been optimized to allow filings using smart phones or tablets, according to the website.