NEW BRITAIN – Emphasizing the importance of investing in child care services and programs, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz and state Early Childhood Commissioner Beth Bye toured the Human Resources Agency of New Britain Wednesday to help highlight the need for the services.
“This is a major focus because without child care, we can’t reopen our economy,” Bysiewicz said. “Families need child care in order for the parents to go to work and it’s an important investment that we’re making for our families.”
To support pandemic recovery efforts, a historic $210 million in covid-19 funds will be invested in early childhood programs across the state, according to Gov. Ned Lamont’s Office. The plan includes expanding access, supporting child care workers through a total of $120 million to be used for operational stabilization grants, and investing in quality services. This includes $26 million over two years in child care programs that will pay higher market rate to programs that are accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the National Association for Family Child Care.
An additional $6 million will provide support and coaching to child care programs working to secure accreditation and related fees, according to the plan.
Through the investment, HRA of New Britain will receive $50 million over a two year period to help pay for child care through the state’s Care 4 Kids program for parents enrolled in higher education and approved workforce training programs. This will help parents who have lost their jobs during the pandemic and give them the opportunity to get workforce training or education for new job opportunities.
Marlo Greponne, executive director of HRA of New Britain, said not only will the funds help expand programs and staff, it’ll also help families to pay for fees associated with the services.
“We still continue to provide those services to these families, we’re not going to turn them away,” she said. “But the funds will be a huge help to fill the fee gap.” The fee waiver has also been extended to December.
The tour took the group through the HRA facility on Clinton Street, where the site went through major renovations in 2008. It currently has over a hundred administration and staff members and services roughly 400 children, and about 90 to 100 of those children are a part of the Care 4 Kids Program. The site also has an employment services center, where families can receive workforce training while knowing their children are in a safe space at HRA.
Colorful posters and art from the children covered the hallway walls and the group peeked into Carol Whittle’s Head Start classroom, where she has 14 students enrolled and the excitement was palpable as the student played with blocks, learned how to plant seeds, and put puzzle pieces together.
“It’s great for them to see the visitors here,” she said. “The kids have been really good at wearing masks, learning how to wash their hands, and they’ve been doing really well in the classroom.”
State Rep. Bobby Sanchez, who was an HRA teacher for many years, said the best thing in the world is working with children and seeing the impact the teachers have on them.
“I’m really glad that the government came through with the funding because these teachers work very, very hard and I hope the funding will be on a more long termed basis,” he said.
The pandemic also further spotlighted the need to provide a livable wage for childcare workers and Bye said she hopes to use the funds to help change this problem.
“There’s a need for long term funding and to pay teachers what they deserve,” she said. “We’ve asked them to step up during the pandemic and they’ve all gone above and beyond. It’s so important for the state legislature and local administration to work together to develop the policy needed.”
Contact Catherine Shen at firstname.lastname@example.org