When COVID-19 struck in 2020, families and child care providers had to navigate the uncertainty of the virus. Some parents decided to keep their children out of care, while providers struggled to hire and retain staff and keep pace with expenses.
In response, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 offered states federal funding to help stabilize child care programs. Oregon received approximately $224 million in grant funding to pay directly to qualified child care providers throughout the state.
The COVID-19 Child Care Stabilization grants have been used to cover increased expenses for providers, including personnel costs, rent or mortgage payments, COVID-related supplies, training and professional development related to health and safety practices, mental health supports, and reimbursement of costs associated with the public health emergency.
To receive these funds, a child care program had to be open and providing care and apply before the end of 2021. In all, 3,286 programs in Oregon received grant funding – this includes 94% of Certified Family providers, 84% of Registered Family, 88% of Certified Centers and 54% of license-exempt Employment Related Day Care providers.
We’re introducing you to three child care providers who used these dollars to remain open, while making program improvements or supporting their staff.
Karsyn’s Home Day Kare in Eugene finds flexibility to expand
Karsyn Lovendahl operates a registered family child care out of her home in Eugene called Karsyn’s Home Day Kare.
She has a license to care for 10 children in program but currently cares for up to six children each day, including two infants.
When Lovendahl and her husband bought their current home several years ago, they used the daylight basement as a home for her father-in-law.
The 1,100 square foot space came equipped with a small kitchenette, laundry, living space, and bath.
“When we bought the house, it was always my dream to remodel the daylight basement space into more day care space,” she said. “But, after my father-in-law moved out, we realized that it would make better sense to move our living space to the basement and expand the day care space upstairs.”
Now, Lovendahl is using her grant to realize her newly revised dream.
“I’m really looking forward to adding kid-friendly furnishings to make this dream come true,” she continued.
“Our expanded space will include a quiet area for the infants that can be separate from the others as needed.”
“This grant was the perfect opportunity at the right time for us. Keeping the space upstairs makes it much easier for morning drop-offs and evening pick-ups.” said Karsyn. “With this expanded space, I may be able to hire an assistant expand my capacity.”
Bilingual program offers care to families of essential workers
Sabi Valesco owns and operates two English/Spanish bilingual certified day care and preschool programs: Amazing Minds Child Development Center and Preschools in Aloha and in Northwest Portland.
When the pandemic began, all of the children cared for at the Portland center stayed home with their parents because they were able to work from home.
But in the Aloha center, parents who were essential workers still needed a place to send their children.
With the Portland location closed, Valesco had to flex programs and staff to keep her Aloha center open for the 10 to 13 children she served daily, rather than the usual 16 children at each center.
Closing the center meant a significant loss in income, but the bills at that location were still coming, including expenses for rent and utilities.
“I didn’t think my business was going to be able to survive, but the grant allowed me to pay necessary expenses during the pandemic,” said Valesco. “My families were so grateful that I could keep my Aloha location open and care for their children in a safe environment. The Early Learning Division was a huge help, providing me with supplies to help during the pandemic, including things like personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer. I was able to give masks to my families, who couldn’t get them elsewhere.”
In addition to paying the bills, Valesco was able to make some improvements to her centers. She bought new furniture and made other upgrades.
“We pulled out carpeting and replaced the flooring with linoleum, which can be cleaned thoroughly,” she said. “We also bought a washer and dryer for the center, which helps immensely. Now I don’t have to go to the laundromat on weekends to wash everyone’s bedding.”
Valesco, who was forced to adapt like so many during the pandemic, said the funding offered some peace of mind.
“This grant not only allowed me to keep my business going, but provide necessary child care throughout the pandemic,” she said. “Additionally, I was able to give my hard-working staff a bonus as a thank you. I honestly don’t know if I would have made it without the support of the grant and the ELD.”
Hermiston provider perseveres after COVID-19 closures
Like many others providing child care in Oregon, Marisela Ortiz used some of her grant funding to pay for basics: utility bills, food for her program, school supplies, a portable air conditioner for hot weather, upgrading the meal prep area of her kitchen, and purchasing a printer for her computer.
But COVID-19 hit Ortiz especially hard. She was forced to close four separate times due to illnesses in her program.
The Spanish-speaking provider owns and operates Jardin Infantil at her home in Hermiston. Thanks to the ELD’s COVID-19 Stabilization Grant funding, she was able to recoup about 70% of the losses for the closures, which threatened to close her business for good.
She is now able to focus on the children’s learning and enrichment activities. Today, she’s been using her new printer for age-appropriate handouts and worksheets in both Spanish and English.
The grant funds also allowed her to buy outside toys for the children to improve their gross motor skills.
“I was so thankful to be able to receive the grant funds,” Ortiz said. “I was able to purchase so many necessary items for my students. The grant made it possible to keep my business open.”