‘Come Back Stronger Fund’ hopes to support child care centers in Indiana during pandemic

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INDIANAPOLIS– COVID-19 has forced child care centers across Indiana to make tough decisions, whether that’s closing their doors, reducing staff or considering how they will keep children safe.

There’s now $15 million available through Early Learning Indiana to offset the costs.

“Child care has been evolving for a long time, but this is a new one,” said Teri Dunham, the center director for Early Learning, Inc. on the east side.

The safety of the children and staff at her center is Dunham’s top priority.

“Without them, we don’t have a business,” Dunham added.

That’s why you’ll find masks, safety signs and sanitizer the moment you walk in the front door.

“Trying to social distance with children is almost impossible,” said Dunham, “Fortunately before this happened, I had a supply of hospital grade germicidal cleaner, but I am out. Hand sanitizer has been difficult to get.”

Her child care center is taking it day-by-day but keeping up has been challenging.

“We didn’t know how we were going to make it otherwise,” said Dunham.

Now a new grant could change everything and she’s eager to apply. It’s called the Come Back Stronger Fund provided by The Lilly Endowment to the nonprofit Early Learning Indiana.

“Which is a $15 million fund available to high quality and inspiring high-quality child care providers all throughout the state of Indiana,” said Maureen Weber, the president of Early Learning Indiana, “To help them prepare for the changes that need to be made in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Grants of up to $40,000 will be offered based on the number of children served and extra money will be available for centers who serve large numbers of low-income families.

“Eligible providers are those that serve children between the ages of zero and 5-years-old that are participating in the paths to quality rating system as a level 2, 3 or 4 on that system,” Weber added.

Early Learning Center fits that criteria and for Dunham, she hopes this will be the support they need to keep kids and staff safe.

“It’s tough out there right now and we’re trying to provide a service and when everybody does go back to work, they’re going to need some child care and it may not be there if we don’t do something,” Dunham said.

Early Learning Indiana is hosting a webinar for child care providers to learn more about the application process and guidelines Wednesday. Applications for the grant money go live on Thursday. Click here if you would like to learn more about the fund.

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