A new $540 million grant program has been started to support early childhood education programs in Indiana.

The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration announced Wednesday the Build, Learn, Grow Stabilization Grants to support child care, out-of-school time programs and early care and education programs. According to a news release these programs have seen increased costs and challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Money for the grants come from the funds Indiana received through the American Rescue Plan Act and will be distributed across at least two rounds. The release said the first round will cover three months of providers’ operating expenses to help stabilize operations and invest in future growth.

The grants are non-competitive and will be awarded on a rolling basis. Providers are encouraged to apply quickly, the release said.

Funds can be used to cover expenses including personnel costs, rent, employee recruitment, facility maintenance, COVID-19 safety-related needs and mental health supports such as counseling for children.

Amounts are calculated based on each provider’s program type, average attendance, staffing costs, quality level and geography, the release said. Total funding is capped at $500,000 per site for the duration of the program.

The early education industry faced hardship from the pandemic as they had to work to stay open to safely serve children despite hits to their revenue as many families chose to keep children at home, said Nicole Norvell, director of FSSA’s Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning. Early ed providers have also faced enrollment challenges, increased supply and material costs and staffing shortages, Norvell said in the release.

“We are committed to helping them recover and strengthen their operations, as high-quality child care is critical to our whole state’s recovery, allowing families to work and businesses and communities to thrive,” she said.

Eligible applicants include over 3,600 child care providers throughout the state that serve more than 100,000 Hoosier children up to age 12. They must be open, currently serving children and in good standing. Programs also must have been licensed or registered to operate in Indiana at the time of the ARPA enactment on March 11.

Providers can learn more about the stabilization grants and apply at Stabilization.BuildLearnGrow.org. On the website, there is an introductory webinar, application walkthrough, FAQs and a link to apply.

Applications are due Dec. 30. Additional funding rounds will be announced in the future, the release said.
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