Governor’s Budget- Will it be enough?

After the elections Governor Polis presented his 2021 Budget Proposal along with a call for a Special Session focused on line items to help with COVID19 response and relief. We at ECEA have paid close attention to the items geared around you- our members- and are here to give you a break down.

The Governor proposes a $50 million one time investment dedicated to Early Childhood Education. Of this $50 million he proposes to grant $35 million dollars to licensed providers in sustainability grants. This money would be distributed similarly to the federal grants from the CARES act. The money would be made available based off of your capacity and enrollment and is a grant rather than a loan. This money has nearly no restrictions on its use so it can be used for payroll, capital improvements, and even overdue utility bills.

Next the Governor proposes $5 million dollars for grants to employers to retrofit their facilities to provide onsite child care. This means that if you are looking to expand you may be able to partner with a local business and use these funds to repurpose space in a building (such as a manufacturing plant, corporate office building, etc.) to open a satellite program. This is also to encourage new providers that may not have the capital to open their own site some funds and a partnership to start a new licensed facility. This facility would then be available as a benefit to the employees of the business you partner with. There is one glaring hurdle with this however and that is the fact that in many cases the space would not pass licensing due to things like access to a playground or suitable outdoor play space. This year though is a year of rules and regulations revision thus making this a potentially viable opportunity.

Finally, as part of the one time investment proposed by Governor Polis is a $10 million one time startup funding grand and mentorship program for new childcare providers. Seemingly in the spirit of Rep. Wilsons HOME Act bill created during the interim session last summer the Governor would like create a program called the Governor’s Child Care Fellows program. This would provide the mentorship to new owners and be a supportive road map to licensure. This would be open to both new childcare centers and family child care homes. Priority of course would be given to those planning on providing services in child care deserts.

Beyond the one time investments Governor Polis proposes long term investments of ongoing support. This is a grand total of $7.6 million. He proposes a $1.2 million increase to establish an ECE education recruitment and retention grant and scholarship program. He also proposes a $3 million increase to increase live able salaries for ECE educators at CCAP providers. Polis also request $400,000 increase to improve kindergarten readiness via joining the Imagination Library Program- created by Dolly Parton, this program delivers one book every month to children regardless of family income from birth to age five. $2.5 M increase and statutory change to enable Early Intervention evaluations transfer from Colorado Department of Education to Colorado Department of Human Services and $500,000 increase funding to Nurse Family Partnership programs.

Last but not least, the Governor also set in protection funding for full day Kindergarten, $133,000 for CCAP funding, $42 million to support the READ act, $27 million for ongoing Home Visiting Programs, and the last $3 million for Early Childhood Mental Health.

While much of the Governor’s budget proposal would go directly to help licensed providers recover some of their losses due to COVID shut downs, drops in enrollment and increased expenses of things like gloves, masks, and the sort, we fear that maybe not all the funds are being used in the most beneficial ways that would help providers keep their doors open and our children in the best of hands. Funds for new programs such as the Imagination Library, and increased wages to CCCAP providers is wonderful and needed- eventually. Right now so many providers are struggling and this aid is so late that many have had to make the hard decision to shut their doors and walk away. Providers need help both in the bank and in the policies that determine if they can be open or must close. We think that over all the budget will make a positive impact on our field; but is it enough?