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Exciting Developments for Ohio's Child Care

By Troy Hunter, Director of Research, Evaluation, and Performance, Groundwork Ohio Follow Troy on Twitter and LinkedIn

Governor Mike DeWine showed up as a champion for kids in his recent State of the State address. The announcement of new support for child care affordability and access demonstrates his dedication to Ohio's infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. The initiatives help support the foundations for our youngest Ohioans.

Major Supports for Child Care

The governor announced two major supports for child care:

  • Child Care Choice Voucher Program: This program will assist over 8,000 Ohio families who earn up to 200% of the federal poverty level, or less than $60,000 for a family of four, with a voucher. This significant step will alleviate the financial burden on working families and provide much-needed relief in accessing quality child care services.

  • Child Care Access Grants: An allocation of $85 million to support licensed early care and education providers, helping them increase capacity, complete repairs, or provide additional support to staff and families, especially those with special needs.

Child Care Affordability

Child care affordability remains a pressing issue in Ohio. The state ranks last in the nation for child care assistance eligibility, with initial eligibility starting at just 145% of the federal poverty level. The average annual price of child care for an infant is $11,438, which decreases slightly for toddlers ($10,444) and preschoolers ($8,580). These costs are a significant barrier to working families, forcing them to allocate a large portion of their income to child care expenses.

Early Care and Education Child Care Choice Program

Effective April 29, 2024, working families earning between 146–200% of the federal poverty level will be eligible for the Early Care and Education Child Care Choice Program. An estimated 8,000 families will benefit from this expanded support, which helps to cover child care costs. Family co-payments will be set at 9% and families are eligible for 12 months once approved. To become eligible, families must apply and be denied for the Publicly Funded Child Care program. Once their application is denied due to income, their application for the Child Care Choice Voucher may be processed. Providers will be paid the month following if any eligible child attends at least one day. Only one payment per child will be made in any given month to only one provider.

Early Childhood Educators and Programs Are Struggling

According to the recent National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) report We Are NOT OK, Ohio's early childhood education system is experiencing significant strain:

  • 54% of respondents reported at least one child care program in their community closing in the last year. These closures have a profound impact on families by reducing the availability of quality child care options.

  • 46% of respondents indicated they are more burnt out now than a year ago. The demanding nature of the work, coupled with staffing shortages and increased responsibilities, has taken a toll on early childhood educators.

  • 62% of respondents reported that their program was under-enrolled relative to capacity in the past 6 months. This under-enrollment exacerbates financial challenges for programs already operating on tight budgets.

New Early Care and Education Access Grants

In response to these challenges, the governor's announcement of new grants to support early childhood education programs and expand access to child care in Ohio is timely. The application period is April 12, 2024, to April 26, 2024, and the expense period is July 1, 2023, to August 31, 2024. Licensed early care and education providers may apply to all the grant categories but are eligible to receive a grant in only one. These competitive grants will be awarded to a limited number of programs.

Early Care and Education Access Grants Details

  • New Center Start-Up Grant: Increases the number of licensed programs. Maximum amount: $500,000.

  • Program Expansion Grant: Increases the number of children that are able to be cared for in current licensed programs. Maximum amount: $50,000 for centers; $5,000 for family child care.

  • Program Repairs Grant: Maintains or increases the number of spaces available in currently licensed programs. Maximum amount: $100,000 for centers; $5,000 for family child care.

  • Family Child Care Type B to Type A Grant: Increases the number of children able to be served in Family Child Care. Maximum amount: $25,000.

  • Increased Capacity for Children with Special Needs: Increases the number of early care and education programs trained in evidence-based strategies/programs to support the enrollment and development of children with special needs. Maximum amount: $100,000.

How to Apply

Applications can be submitted through the Ohio Professional Registry, available from April 12, 2024, at 2:00 pm until April 26, 2024, at 5:00 pm. Award notifications will be made on May 3, 2024. Comprehensive guidance, FAQs, and requirements are available on OCCRRA's website.

These initiatives are significant strides towards ensuring accessible, affordable, and high-quality child care for Ohio's youngest residents. Groundwork Ohio remains committed to making Ohio the best place to be a young child. We will continue to closely monitor these developments and provide updates on how they impact Ohio's early childhood landscape.


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