Frederick County Executive and MHA Child Care Choices Program Announce Assistance Grants for Child Care Providers Countywide

Patty Morison

Image: Patty Morison, Child Care Choices program director at the Mental Health Association of Frederick County.
Article originally published by Frederick News Post, August 13, 2020. For full article, please visit the Frederick News Post website.

County Executive Jan Gardner announced Thursday [August 13, 2020] that the county will administer up to $2 million in grants to help child care centers and providers countywide pay for expenses due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Gardner said the money will come from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and grant amounts will vary based on the size of the provider.

Child care facilities closing has become an issue statewide and has placed additional burdens on working parents, Gardner said. In December 2019, there were 316 licensed family child care providers countywide. By this week, 241 remain open, Gardner said. As of last week, about 30 percent of all licensed providers were “effectively closed.”

“Even people who are still working at home still want to have child care because they still want to successfully work from home,” Gardner said after the briefing Thursday. “And then you add the educational piece, and the burden on parents is just significant right now.”

That extends to the thousands of employees working for county government, she said.

“I know some of my own employees are struggling with, how are they going to continue to effectively work [and] take care of their children, and what spouses and other family members are doing to make it all work,” Gardner said. “And so, child care was not on our list of things to put in the CARES budget, but it’s there now, and so we’re just shifting money around as we go.”

The county will be working with Patty Morison, Child Care Choices program director at the Mental Health Association of Frederick County.

Morison thanked Gardner and her staff for setting up the grants during the past three weeks, and said they will help child care staff take care of additional costs due to increased cleaning and sanitation protocols because of the coronavirus pandemic. Those centers have also lost revenue, in part due to capacity requirements: currently, providers can only have 15 people per room, including children and staff.

She and Gardner said for child care providers to qualify, they must be licensed by the state's Department of Education, be in good standing, be open now or by Aug. 31 and commit to remaining open for at least four months after receiving the grant money.

The pandemic has caused not only anxiety and stress for child care providers and those enrolled, but also has led to some leaving the profession, Morison said.

“We have one center who just lost staff because the person who left said, 'I didn’t sign on to be a cleaning service, and this is all I do, all day long. I signed on to care for children,'” Morison said. “And so that was a big eye-opening statement to hear.”

Gardner said providers who received money from the county's Jumpstart grants program cannot “double dip” into this new pot of money. She added the child care grants must be used for covering expenses related to the pandemic, much like everything else tied to the CARES Act funding.

In other words, the CARES Act cannot be used by county governments, businesses, child care providers or other entities to replace typical revenue.

Gardner and Morison said they know more money may be needed based on how long capacity restrictions are in place because of the pandemic and if another wave of the coronavirus hits Maryland this fall. 

“This is one of the reasons why we need additional assistance from the federal government, and why we’re paying attention to the HEROES Act or the HEALS Act, or whatever gets merged … there’s just a lot of uncertainty on many, many pieces of this puzzle,” Gardner said. “And obviously, child care is kind of an obvious thing to know it’s a problem, but I just think when we were at the beginning of this, and we closed schools for two weeks, no one thought we would be closed for half a year or longer.”