Oklahoma will offer start-up grants to ease a shortage of child care across nearly half the state, officials said Tuesday.
The Department of Human Services will provide up to $10,000 per child for new day care centers that open in what the state considers “child care deserts,” officials said. That includes Tulsa and 33 other counties, with more than half the state’s population living in areas “where there aren’t enough licensed child-care providers to meet the needs of working families,” according to DHS.
Some areas have faced a chronic shortage of child care, but the problem grew worse after facilities closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Jackie Evans, who owns Aunt Jackie’s Childcare Home in Tulsa.
“A lot of places never reopened,” said Evans. “We’ve never recouped from the pandemic, and now there are lot more children who need child care than there are places for them.”
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As a licensed child care provider for 42 years, Evans won’t be eligible for a start-up grant, but she will welcome new facilities in her neighborhood, where she has a long waiting list for children to enroll at her day care.
“The community needs it,” she said.
Grant recipients will participate in the state’s Human Services Quality Rating Improvement System “to create enriching, quality early childhood learning environments,” officials said.
“We are providing funding and startup capital for people to go into a child care desert and open up a new business by becoming a child care provider,” said Brittany Lee, director of Child Care Services. “Not only will this bring new jobs into communities across Oklahoma, but it will also enable parents and guardians to rejoin the workforce with the peace of mind that their child is in a safe and enriching environment.”
Applications will be available at okchildcaregrants.com until funds are depleted or until July 31, officials said. An initial $5,000 per child will be paid upon approval of the grant, with the remaining $5,000 per child distributed after 12 months, officials said.
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