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‘Desperate’ Pa. child care industry to receive $51 million lifeline

A group of children walk with their caregivers on Vine Street. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

A group of children walk with their caregivers on Vine Street. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Pennsylvania officials are beginning to distribute $51 million of federal stimulus funding to the state’s child care providers, Gov. Tom Wolf announced Wednesday — a lifeline to an industry crucial to reopening the economy that advocates say is on the brink of collapse.

Pennsylvania received $106 million of funding to support child care from the federal CARES Act. The initial disbursement, meant to help the industry reopen as more than half of the counties in the state have begun to ease shutdown restrictions, will be distributed to the state’s roughly 7,000 licensed child care providers in mid-to-late June.

Providers in those counties have been slow to reopen, citing the high cost of cleaning supplies and safety gear, and lower revenue due to nervous parents reluctant to send their kids back.

The remaining $55 million will be distributed following the completion of a state study looking at the economic impact of the shutdown on providers, according to the governor’s office.

“Child care providers allow parents and guardians to go to work knowing their children are being cared for in a safe, nurturing and educational environment. Without their service, we cannot have a fully functional economy,” Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller said in the release.

Providers in Philadelphia will receive the highest share of the first round of funds: about $11 million. Alleghany county will receive the second highest amount, at $4.2 million, followed by Montomery, Delaware and Bucks counties.

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Funding amounts will depend on the provider type, capacity, number of children from low-income families, and the level of need for child care in the county the provider is in.

Industry advocates praised the move, noting that the distribution reaches the whole industry, but prioritizes providers facing the greatest need.

“It is a thoughtful plan,” said Pennsylvania Child Care Association Executive Director Diane Barber. “I think providers will be pleased, because right now they are pretty desperate.”

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the figure in the headline.

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