Even before the pandemic, childcare played a huge role in supporting working families, but now North Dakota caretakers have a new opportunity to take childcare to the next level.

Through COVID-19 federal funding, the Department of Human Services is providing all licensed or regulated providers money to help them with relief and recovery.

The Early Childhood Division director says the main focus is giving providers the tools to strengthen their programs.

“It has special attention for those providers who are caring for infants and toddlers, caring for children in underserved areas where maybe there isn’t as a highly populated opportunity for childcare and then also for those who are providing care for non-traditional hours,” explained Kay Larson.

Larson says providing funds to childcare providers goes beyond that as a successful program helps not only the kids but their families.

“Without childcare, working families have a difficult time finding the ability to go to work. They want a place where they know that their child is safe and well cared for in the day and that makes them a productive employee,” said Larson.

Through the program, childcare providers can now apply for multiple one-time grants, for health and safety, technology or inclusion.

The department wants to ensure everyone has access to adequate care.

“Stabilization grants can be used for programs that are needing to recruit and retain staff, for facility cost and then for other things; material equipment, goods and services to operated their program,” said Larson.

Another program the department is working on is retention and training incentives for staff to help the workforce in the childcare industry.

The funds will be available now until August of 2022.