Federal funds to expand access to child care & education in Virginia

Published: Apr. 15, 2021 at 2:03 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WJHL) – Virginia will be using more than $203 million to expand access to child care and education and increase support for child care providers.

According to a release from the office of Governor Ralph Northam, the funds will expand the eligibility criteria for the Child Care Subsidy Program.

State officials hope the increased access to resources will help Virginia’s youngest students catch up on time lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Early educators have been diligent and dedicated to keeping children safe and meeting the needs of our youngest Virginians since the early days of this public health crisis,” said Northam in the release. “As we emerge from the pandemic, the strength of our recovery will depend upon our ability to help families return to the workforce and provide quality, affordable options for early childhood care and education. These additional investments will help address the challenges child care providers are facing and ensure we can continue to deliver critical resources to those most in need now and into the future.”

The release states despite the fact that most child care centers have reopened in Virginia, the pandemic has left many programs with staffing challenges, revenue difficulties and higher costs of operation.

The federal funding will allow the commonwealth to give programs stabilizing grants that and offer bonuses and scholarships to programs that have yet to receive assistance.

“I’m grateful to the legislators for their support of our littlest learners during another successful General Assembly session,” said First Lady Northam in the release. “This funding will help our superhero educators continue to support Virginia’s most valuable asset—our children.”

On Wednesday, Pamela Northam visited Southwest Virginia and spoke on the plans for the Child Care Subsidy Program at Norton Elementary and Middle School.

While in Norton, First Lady Northam spoke about a partnership between Ballad Health, the United Way of Southwest Virginia and the state.

One of the efforts of the partnership will be to address the education missed due to the pandemic by launching “Kinder Camps.” The camps will allow a young child to get acclimated to social skills ahead of their entrance to kindergarten. It is also an opportunity to provide social and emotional support for kids who were not able to have these.

“We have lots of concerns about our little ones preparing for kindergarten. We’re looking at literacy scores that are five times less than they should be at this time,” Pamela Northam said.

In our region, the free camps will be offered in Buchanan and Wise County as well as in the Norton city school district. Enrollment will be based on assessments.

You can see the entire story from CBS affiliate WJHL here.