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Early Learning Indiana Announces $15 Million “Come Back Stronger Fund” To Aid State’s Child Care Providers

Friday, May 15, 2020

The Fund will help support health- and safety-related expenses in the wake of COVID-19.

As early care and learning providers across the country face an uncertain future because of COVID-19, Early Learning Indiana is launching the Come Back Stronger Fund with the support of a $15.7 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. The fund is designed to reinforce Indiana’s supply of high-quality early learning opportunities, especially for the most vulnerable children.

“In the best of times, early learning providers operate on razor-thin margins due to the imbalance between the cost of providing care and families’ ability to afford it,” said Early Learning Indiana CEO Maureen Weber. “As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the path forward is even more precarious with added safety-related expenses and uncertainty around enrollment and staffing. This funding will help providers make necessary operational changes to deliver safe and high-quality early learning services that are critical for Hoosier families and the state’s economic recovery.”

Through the Come Back Stronger Fund, Early Learning Indiana will offer grants of varying amounts that will depend on the number of children served. The grants will help offset new expenses incurred by providers to safely operate and continue delivering early learning experiences in the wake of the pandemic. These include measures such as enhancing sanitation practices, altering key aspects of the physical environment to support social distancing, adopting new staffing models that minimize exposure, expanding to serve more children in response to a depletion in community supply, and investing in personalized sets of materials and toys to limit cross-contamination among children while maintaining an environment that stimulates child development.

“High-quality early care and education programs are essential to the learning and development of children and to parents’ ability to work and support their families,” said Ted Maple, the Endowment’s vice president for education. “We are pleased that this fund will help providers continue to offer high-quality learning experiences while safely serving children in the face of the unparalleled COVID-19 challenges.”

Licensed and registered centers, ministries and family child care home providers in Indiana serving vulnerable family populations are eligible to apply. Providers must serve children ages 0-5 and be a Paths to QUALITY level 3 or 4 provider or a level 2 provider that has committed to reaching higher levels of quality in due course. Grant amounts of up to $40,000 will be tiered based on the number of children served, with an additional sum available to providers with 25% or more of their enrolled children receiving federal Child Care and Development Fund assistance from the state of Indiana.

In addition to grant funding, Early Learning Indiana will provide technical assistance to Indiana child care providers and help them develop strategies to continue offering high-quality early care and education programming to children and families during the pandemic. Grant funding from Lilly Endowment to Early Learning Indiana in 2019 will also support planning and developing new tools and resources for child care providers to help strengthen and sustain their programs into the future.

Early child care organizations will be able to learn more about the Come Back Stronger Fund and apply at www.earlylearningin.org/comebackstronger. Guidelines and application instructions will be available on Tuesday, May 19. Early Learning Indiana also invites others to contribute to the fund to help make more grants possible throughout the state.

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