The state's Office of Early Childhood, within the Department of Human Services, has been awarded $275 million from the American Rescue Plan to help families with young children, childcare providers and other early childhood professionals.

Gov. Jared Polis' office said Monday the money will be invested "to make childcare more affordable in Colorado and to create a brighter future for children and families in our state. As families work to build back stronger from this pandemic, it's critical that quality child care is accessible and affordable to all Colorado families. This investment will save families money and help get parents back to work while giving our children opportunities to learn, grow and succeed.”

Out of the $275 million, $267 million will go toward grants to reduce family tuition for child care and workforce retention. The last $8 million will fund early childhood programs, including home visits and community-based child abuse prevention; establishing mentorship and apprenticeship programs for early childhood professionals; support for health and mental health of children, families, and providers; expansion of innovation grants to help communities address challenges like the affordability and availability of child care; and help new child care providers become licensed and to allow new and existing child care providers to increase quality.

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The governor's statement said the funding will help retain 24,000 early childhood educators through increased employee compensation, retention bonuses, professional development and hiring more staff. 

According to the Office of Early Childhood, infant care costs nearly 10 percent more than the average rent. Colorado’s economy depends on working parents, with nearly 70 percent of children under age six having both parents in the workforce, the statement said.

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"However, even pre-pandemic, over half of parents reported having missed work opportunities because they either did not have access to care or could not afford it. This funding will result in $100 million kept in the pockets of families across the state, with families saving an average of about $450 per child in tuition reductions over the nine-month grant," the statement said.

Michelle Barnes, executive director of the Department of Human Services, said that "not only will these dollars ensure families are getting vital services, they will immediately help our child care providers keep their doors open, and will help us stabilize and expand child care long into the future, meaning families can access the care they need.”

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The Office of Early Childhood plans to host a virtual town hall in English and Spanish at 5:30 p.m. Thursday to share how the funds will be spent.

The office previously received $119 million from the federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act; $42 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, and $45 million from House Bill 20B-1002 during last year's special session. The office also anticipates receiving an additional $197 million in American Rescue Plan funding.

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