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$20M in grants will help families and Nebraska child care centers and programs
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$20M in grants will help families and Nebraska child care centers and programs

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This electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19.

Money from a coronavirus relief bill will help families and child care centers that have been affected by COVID-19.

"The impact on child care providers has really been tremendous," said Stephanie Beasley, director of children and family services within the state Department of Health and Human Services. 

Beasley said $20 million in child care development block grant funds will help mitigate the effects COVID-19 has had on children, families, licensed child care centers and family home providers. 

Stephanie Beasley

Stephanie Beasley, new director of Children and Family Services Division for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. 

In April, about 16% of licensed child care programs had temporarily closed because of the pandemic, and Gov. Pete Ricketts issued an order allowing licensed child care providers to bill for absent days. The order also allowed families getting child care subsidies to use child care exempt from licensing if their regular provider was closed. 

Beasley said this week those programs that were impacted have decreased only slightly since April. 

The coronavirus grant will be focused on helping child care centers and home providers stay in business, Beasley said. 

The department will fund the remaining applications to the Child Care Relief Fund, made available in early April and led by the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, the department and other private entities.

Nebraska hospitals lessen COVID bed requirements

It became evident that more funding was needed than the early grants provided, Beasley said. 

She said family child care homes also will be eligible for a one-time grant of $3,500 and child care centers would be eligible for a one-time grant of $5,500. Providers will need to submit an application and be in good standing with HHS. Funding can be used on allowable expenses such as utility payments, rent or mortgage payments for child care programs, staff salaries, cleaning supplies, personal protective gear, supplies to care for children.

Some of the funds will also be directed to after-school and summer projects. 

A new Child Care Referral Network website (nechildcarereferral.org) was created to help families find safe, high-quality, licensed child care through a public-private collaboration of agencies and organizations.

The site provides a searchable database that connects working parents with child care providers that have open child care spots in their area. The department will use some of the funding to improve data collection and technology to sustain the network and build it into the existing Nebraska child care resource and referral system.

Website established to connect parents to Nebraska child care providers

Latest updates on coronavirus in Lincoln and nearby

See the latest news as more coronavirus cases are identified in Nebraska.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSLegislature

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