Credit: Courtesy

The Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors awarded $1.125 million of federal funding to the Santa Barbara Foundation to be used to develop the childcare sector, building on the $1 million awarded to the United Way in mid-March. The funds will be used to increase the number of qualified professionals and aid pre-existing and new businesses. The S.B. Foundation is tasked with raising the number of licensed infant and toddler spaces by 250, while United Way is expected to increase existing childcare by 10 percent.

Make no mistake: The availability of childcare locally has long been struggling due to understaffing and underfunding, but the pandemic exacerbated these issues. With remote work and concerns for social distancing, daycare attendance — and subsequently daycare business — tanked. As parents return to the workplace, the demand for childcare is back but parents are being met with astronomical tuition fees and lengthy waitlists.

The new funding comes as a result of the same act that brought us stimulus checks — the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Passed at the beginning of the Biden administration, ARPA provides emergency grants to rescue the economy from strain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last fall, the county announced available funds through ARPA for childcare and released a Request for Qualifications to encourage proposals for projects to address the sector’s greatest needs: caretaker training, skill development, grant and business support, facilities planning, and technical assistance. The county also called for the development of a plan that provides childcare in times of emergency for first responders and other essential workers.

The Santa Barbara Foundation will work together with United Way, which also awarded $1 million to form related programs, to prevent duplication of efforts.


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