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The New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department (ECECD) announced on Oct. 20 that it had awarded more than $157 million to child care providers in the state, with about $1.1 million in funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to be distributed to eight businesses in Taos County. 

The child care providers in Taos County that will receive this funding include: Inspire Bilingual Early Learning Center, Taos Family Development Center, Little Bug, Inc., Ensuenos Y Los Angelitos, UNM Kids Campus Center For Early Learning, Shawnee Erskine and Anansi Day School. 

Micah McCoy, the communications director at the New Mexico ECECD in Santa Fe, said that these funds were earmarked in the American Rescue Plan specifically for stabilizing the child care industry. He said the ECECD created a “grant process for qualifying child care providers to apply for and receive the grants.” 

He said 1,004 providers in the state applied for the grant funding and all were awarded various amounts determined by the ECECD. 

Statewide, $157 million was disbursed with the first payments sent on Oct. 15, he said. The funding will be distributed to child care centers through a total of six payments.

“One thing that is important to understand is that even before the pandemic, the child care industry was in a precarious position. It has been historically underfunded, not just here in New Mexico but across the United States,” McCoy said. “It became a crisis. Emergency dollars were invested at the beginning of the pandemic, but this is to help the industry out.”

McCoy said that one of the “biggest problems in the child care sector is their struggle to hire professionals,” so these centers are “unable to operate at full capacity” without the necessary staff.

He said that the funding would be used to help centers with staff recruitment and retention, so the money could be used for salary increases, hiring bonuses and retention bonuses. 

“It’s also important to underscore just how critical these stabilization grants are for not only keeping the child care industry afloat, but in supporting the wider economy as well,” he said. “We are having trouble with businesses being able to hire the employees they need. One barrier [for people to enter the workforce] is difficulty finding child care.”

He added that it was important to make the investment to increase capacity statewide and make sure that working parents have what they need. 

McCoy said that the funds would also be used for “facility improvement and to help the providers retire bad debt.” 

The ARPA was signed by President Joe Biden into law on March 11. It was a $1.9 trillion package that provided more than $65 billion in direct federal aid to counties across the country. The funds were allocated based on population size. The rest of the funding was direct relief assistance to individuals and families, as well as aid for education, transportation, healthcare, and other programs, like disaster relief and emergency funds. 

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