How state officials are planning to use $30 million in federal funds to improve the child care system in N.H.
Another $29.7 million in federal money is heading to New Hampshire’s child care system, on top of more than $100 million already allocated since the start of the pandemic.
State officials announced plans to boost spending on the state’s child care system this week, using money from the American Rescue Plan federal coronavirus relief package.
Marti Ilg, who oversees child care initiatives at the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, said most of the previous funding went toward helping child care providers “keep the doors open” during the pandemic. It allowed facilities to absorb some of the financial losses from COVID-related closures and raise wages for staff.
The new money, Ilg said, is meant to “strengthen the child care system in a sustainable way.” The department plans to use the funding to test different ways to make child care more affordable and accessible to New Hampshire families.
A lack of affordable child care can limit parents’ career opportunities and ability to earn more income for their families. The barrier disproportionately impacts women.
One pilot program launching later this year aims to make child care scholarships available to more New Hampshire families by raising income eligibility limits. Another key focus will be on workforce development and retention. In some cases, staffing shortages have forced facilities to enroll fewer students, in order to comply with required staff-to-child ratios.
Ilg says these types of pilot programs also give state officials useful data. If one of the new approaches New Hampshire tries out seems like it’s working, she says, having the data to prove it could help secure more permanent funding.