thread, Alaska’s Child Care Resource & Referral Network, recently awarded $940,000 to 260 licensed early childhood and afterschool/school-age education programs statewide as part of its COVID-19 Quality Initiative 2.
To address the continued needs of early childhood education programs during the COVID-19 pandemic, thread partnered with The Alaska Community Foundation and the State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) to provide this COVID-19 Quality Initiative 2 support.
The intent of this initiative was to stabilize and strengthen early childhood and afterschool/school-age education programs that are delivering quality care and education during the pandemic.
thread recognizes the essential role Alaska’s early childhood education programs have in keeping children safe while meeting the needs of families during the COVID-19 pandemic. “thread is proud to provide this level of support to Alaska’s child care businesses,” said Stephanie Berglund, CEO of thread. “The past year has shown how much we rely on child care to be there for working parents to support their families. These small businesses are an integral part of our community and are at risk of collapse.”
Alaska’s child care sector began facing serious challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. Many programs remained open but experienced business interruptions. Fluctuating enrollments, as well as necessary —but costly —State and local health and safety mandates, created financial stress for these small businesses. Hard to find cleaning supplies, physical distancing, and new group sizes put extra demands on early educators and programs.
“The money awarded to us will help significantly with supplies for our center as well as help to pay our employees that have been working hard through this pandemic,” said one local child care program administrator. “With the loss of nearly half of our kids enrolled, it really has made a dent in everything. But things are starting to get back to normal, slowly but surely.”
The initiative included a survey of programs to learn more about future needs. Survey results show programs have capacity to serve more children, and will need continued financial assistance and supplies to fully weather the storm.
Since June 2020, thread has awarded $1.5 million to Alaska’s licensed early childhood education programs. thread also advocated on behalf of the child care sector, resulting in more than $40 million of CARES Act funding being allocated in State and local support. Additionally, thread developed on online COVID-19 Resource Center for timely resources and updates, offered free trainings to early educators, and assisted families with child care referrals and information.