Commerce invests $27.3 million to provide safer and healthier environments for children

Grants will fund minor renovation requests to help keep 253 child care facilities safe and operational

OLYMPIA, WA – The Washington State Department of Commerce, in partnership with the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF), announced $27.3 million in grants to 253 child care providers across the state. The grants provide financial assistance to allow providers to complete renovations such as roof repairs, COVID-19 safety measures, playground equipment upgrades, and other items to improve the health and safety of their buildings.

Many providers deferred maintenance work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and this federal funding to Washington state will help them address those gaps.

“Access to childcare is essential for an equitable economy that provides opportunities for all of Washington’s working parents in every community,” said Commerce Director Lisa Brown. “These investments are a start, but we must do more to remove obstacles and increase availability of quality child care options, particularly for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities, and for families of children with special needs.

Brown noted a 2020 report that showed over a half a million children in our state did not have access to licensed child care, a challenge that grew throughout the pandemic.

Commerce received 946 applications requesting over $169 million. The available funding satisfied just 16% of the total requests. Child care homes will receive almost half of the funding and represent more than two-thirds of the total awards.

“We need to increase access to child care services that demonstrate quality, equity and compassion for families,” said Ross Hunter, DCYF Secretary.  “Safe, healthy and functional facilities are a baseline foundation to that work.”

Commerce and DCYF evaluated key project criteria such as projects located in a low-income neighborhood and/or child care desert, projects that serve children with special needs, and projects that serve a wide variety of age groups, among other factors.

Commerce estimates that 8,234 children will benefit as a result of these improvements.

Providers requested funds for a variety of minor renovations, including two examples located in child care deserts:

  • One licensed family home requested $13,000 to make important safety upgrades to its outdoor play area, such as flat surface for the ground, a fence to keep kids safe, and upgrades to mitigate standing water when it rains.
  • A provider that serves 51 children requested funding to upgrade the kitchen to avoid falling out of compliance with DCYF licensing requirements. The work will ensure that the children’s food will be prepared in a safe and sanitary environment.

To learn more and view a map of investments by county, visit the Early Learning Facilities grant program website.

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