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Monday April 18th, 2022 by Kali Bramble

Staff members who are leading the city and county’s efforts to expand child care services provided the city council’s public health committee with an update last Wednesday on the impacts of last year’s budget cycle. .

Last summer, Council approved an investment of $11 million in federal grant money in child care services as part of his Budget 2021-22. Childcare scholarship programs, hazard pay for essential workers and public pre-K programs will all benefit from the influx of funding, which includes an additional $4.6 million from Travis County.

“Child care is the single biggest cost to Austin families behind housing,” said Success by Six Coalition Vice President Cathy McHorse. “Access to childcare services can allow families to work and stay at home safely.”

About 1,700 children are currently on the waiting list for care subsidized by Workforce Solutions Capital Zone, which channels federal, state and local funding toward child care programs for low-to-moderate income families in Austin. Staff hope the city’s funding of $1,965,104 will help fill that resource gap, allowing another 300 children to transition to subsidized care in the coming months. Additionally, Travis County plans to invest $906,399 of its own budget into the program.

Existing full-day pre-K programs in AISD are expected to receive funding of $902,075 pending Board approval in May. Del Valle’s bilingual pre-K programs, which currently serve about 53 students, are expected to receive $750,000, along with $250,000 from Travis County.

Money from the American Rescue Plan Act will also go to service options outside of public school classrooms through a “blended delivery system” that supports partner companies in the child care industry. Funding in the amount of $500,000 from the City of Austin and $250,000 from Travis County will fund in-home child care options, and an additional $750,000 will support management infrastructure , enabling the city to support 40 child care centers with administrative services such as human resource support, accounting, and navigating regulatory processes.

United Way for Greater Austin will also continue to use partnerships with pre-K providers to leverage state funding from the Texas Workforce Commission, bolstered by $713,000 in funding approved by the Board last February.

“Through this model, United Way serves as a shared services hub,” McHorse said. “Our model was an example for the state of Texas, which has now invested $26 million in staffing across the state to try to grow this model of pre-K partnerships.”

Austin Public Health reported that staff shortage continue to strain the childcare system in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, with 73% of providers reporting vacancies and more than half limiting opening hours as a result. APH hopes improved wages and subsidized higher education programs will help reinvigorate this essential workforce, with $765,945 for essential worker wages and $157,000 awarded in scholarships to further training. incoming child care providers.

Council members expressed interest in exploring dedicated revenue streams that would provide more consistent funding to the child care sector in the years to come.

“I would say we could take San Antonio as an example,” McHorse said. “They put in a process where they put in an 18-cent sales tax…we would just need to do some tax mapping and cost modeling to figure out what those potential funding sources might be.”

Those interested in a fuller breakdown of ARPA investments in child care can read more here.

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