Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers announced Wednesday that the county is investing $7.8 million of its allocated American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars to increase access to child care, with a focus on children and families’ social-emotional development and affordability programs. Through these investments, in the second quarter of 2022, YMCA of Snohomish County reported a 62% increase in staff who felt they now had increased strategies to support positive social behaviors among the children they cared for, the county said in a news release.
The initial package of $7.8 million in ARPA investments includes:
- $2.9 million for school-aged child care and social-emotional development and mental health supports for enrolled children and families;
- $2.35 million for stabilizing every Snohomish County Early Childhood Education & Assistance Program (ECEAP) provider; and
- $2.5 million for child care vouchers and navigation support primarily for job-seeking families.
The $7.8 million in ARPA child care investments was proposed by Somers and appropriated by the county council as part of the 2022 budget process. This funding is in addition to the $12 million for child care investments that Executive Somers proposed as part of the 2023 budget process, which — if appropriated — would bring total county ARPA child care investments to nearly $20 million.
“When I talk with child care providers, they confirm that the pandemic has caused a serious uptick in behavioral health challenges among the children they’re caring for,” Somers said. “Without adequate resources and training, providers are being stretched beyond breaking point and children aren’t getting the kind of support they need.
“Through this program, we’re supporting our children, providing tools to caregivers, and helping undo the harms caused by COVID-19,” Somers continued. “These investments are one part of our broader effort to expand access for communities across our county, particularly in places where child care is already extremely scarce.”
Snohomish County invested $2.9 million in school-aged child care subsidies coupled with behavioral health supports through partnerships with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Snohomish County and YMCA of Snohomish County. This program provides tuition subsides for families at or below 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) as well as social-emotional development and mental health services for children and families. These services help youth and families manage stress, increase coping skills, and reduce behavioral challenges. Through September 2022, this program has helped more than 2,300 families through tuition subsidies and/or behavioral health supports.
“The YMCA of Snohomish County is incredibly grateful of the partnership with the County,” said Peyton Tune, CEO, YMCA of Snohomish County. “When our children have the tools to grow, their potential is boundless. At the Y, our child care programs use developmentally appropriate curriculums to foster physical, cognitive, social, and emotional growth for every child. The ARPA funds have supported families with financial barriers, and allowed us to provide mental health support to youth and families in need during a very critical time. Removing obstacles to high-quality, affordable child care means more families can attend work and school with peace of mind knowing their child is safe in a supportive environment.”
In addition, the county is issuing a total of $2.35 million in stabilization grants to all 16 Snohomish County ECEAP providers across 26 locations. ECEAP providers are using these grants to sustain and expand services without disruption. ECEAP serves some of the County’s most vulnerable children and families, and the cost of providing ECEAP services has significantly increased due to the pandemic, all while social-emotional developmental needs among children have also increased.
Finally, Snohomish County is investing $2.5 million in child care affordability vouchers primarily for job-seeking families. The goal with these vouchers is to fill a significant gap in the system by targeting families who are not eligible for the State’s Working Connections Child Care program.
In addition to vouchers, this program will offer several types of navigation support to families seeking child care assistance. Families will receive help navigating the child care funding system and locating a provider that meets their needs. They will also receive connections to other public benefits and community resources they’re eligible for, including food, housing, employment, health, and other basic needs supports. The voucher program is not currently open to the public; the county and Opportunity Council will identify eligible recipients through partnerships with employment assistance organizations.
In the coming weeks, Somers will announce additional efforts using ARPA funds to expand child care services, including investments in new facilities.