Distribution of Supplies to Child Care Providers

There is no doubt that the COVID-19 crisis has raised awareness about the importance of a critical workforce – child care providers. In response, the federal government announced the new national Child Care Relief Fund that will offer more than $100 million in assistance to Michigan child care providers. The Child Care Relief Fund is a grant program that helps child care providers cover costs during the COVID-19 state of emergency. These non-competitive grants will go to all types of child care providers with the award amounts based on individual child care provider circumstances.

Locally, our Kent Child Care Crisis Response Team remains as active as it has been since it first formed in mid-March. The purpose of this team is to coordinate efforts and align activities that support Kent County child care providers and families who work in essential industries and need child care during this time.

The crisis response team got to work immediately to determine which child care centers and in-home providers were staying open and how many kids they could accept. The Kent County Shared Services Alliance Project helped secure an initial bulk order of basic goods to deliver to child care providers who were running low.

Since March, the team has helped refer families through a central intake process coordinated through the Kent ISD. To date, approximately 88 families have been referred to child care providers and two to three requests continue to come in per day. One hundred forty-five children have been placed so far.

After surveying the list of providers, 80 out of 124 providers say they are open and accepting children. These children are from essential workforce families in compliance with the Governor’s executive orders

First Steps Kent was able to apply for and receive a grant from the Coronavirus Response Fund from Heart of West Michigan United Way to support the purchase and distribution of basic supplies for these licensed child care providers in Kent County. The funding will last for five weeks with a potential for two additional weeks. In addition, Amway donated 1,550 bottles of hand sanitizer to providers and Meijer donated 1,000 bags for the supply distributions.

So far, the team coordinated two distributions utilizing Head Start for Kent County as a distribution center. On April 22, 50 child care providers came to pick-up essential supplies using no-contact safety protocol. This initial order was specific to individual provider requests and was divided evenly.

“I just wanted to say thank you so much for the items I received last night. Hand sanitizer and toilet paper were at the top of my list and I am busy enough that trying to shop for these items each week is ridiculous,” said Michelle, a child care provider. “What a great service to provide right now to us who are staying open.”

On April 28, a second distribution took place. Eighty-five child care providers picked up food and supplies for the children in their care.

Child care provider Shelley said, “You are all wonderful. I have a group home with mostly children of medical essential workers. I have not been able to find hand saniter, soap, bleach, toilet paper, lysol wipes, disinfectant or bread…you all, whoever you are, deserve big hugs!”

The Kent Child Care Crisis Response Team has also been working to show appreciation to child care providers through social media efforts and through advocacy on their behalf. The team has also recognized the significant economic impact that COVID-19 has had on the industry and has worked to connect child care providers to additional resources, including funding opportunities through the CARES Act and local sources like the Heart of West Michigan United Way.

If you want to help, you can donate to the Kent County Coronavirus Response Fund at Heart of West Michigan United Way (link). Continue to thank all of the child care providers who are serving essential workers during this time of crisis. We know that child care workers are always essential, and we appreciate their continued hard work and dedication to children and families.

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