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Grants Available to Expand Childcare in Kansas

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TOPEKA, Kan. (KASB.org) – The Kansas Children’s Cabinet is seeking community-based applications for $40 million in funding for the Child Care Capacity Accelerator. The goal is to expand licensed childcare slots in Kansas to meet family needs. School leaders can work with their partners in their community to apply for these funds, which support the Kansans Can outcome of kindergarten readiness.

The Cabinet is asking for letters of interest to be submitted by February 20 to measure potential demand for the funding. The Cabinet will tentatively post the Request for Proposal Application form by March 10, and applications will be due by May 15. (The letter of interest is requested but not required to be considered for a grant.)

The Accelerator project blends two funding components from federal COVID relief funds awarded to Kansas. State funding through the Kansas Office of Recovery will provide $20 million for childcare expansion, which can cover capital construction costs. The Kansas Department for Children and Families is providing an additional $20 million for childcare, which can be used for operating expenses but NOT construction. All these funds are “one-time” dollars that will not be available for ongoing support.

“We know there’s a statewide shortage of childcare seats across communities for a variety of reasons,” explained Children’s Cabinet Executive Director Melissa Rooker in a webinar about the funding. “In some cases, it is the physical space, and in other cases, it is the staffing. In some cases, it’s both, and that needs to be considered as funding for both aspects.” Applicants can develop a proposal for both construction and operations and the Cabinet can award dollars from both pots of money to meet those needs.

There are specific requirements to receive this funding. First, the project must expand licensed childcare spots, not renovate or improve existing positions. Second, recipients can only use the funding to cover some costs. “Our funding could be either the last mile funding or catalytic funding,” Rooker said. “That could mean you might already have partial fundraising and you’ve identified local dollars, private sector dollars or other sources but still have a gap and we could fill that gap. Or this funding could be that catalytic funding that unlocks match funding that exists for you once you have reached the milestone.”

Applicants need to demonstrate a community approach in their submissions. Several Kansas communities have partnered with Child Care Aware of Kansas through the Communities-in-Action program. This program helps community coalitions identify local solutions to childcare challenges. This kind of community-wide collaboration will be essential to show for the accelerator funding. Other departments that offer community support include:

  • Kansas Department of Health and Environment Child Care Licensing (i.e., local surveyors)

  • Child Care Go Team (a team representing state agencies to quickly address specific pain points in expanding childcare

  • Community Outreach and Engagement Team at Child Care Aware of Kansas

While a community approach is required for the application, applicants can be any entity the community identifies as best suited or equipped to play that role. Entities that can apply include:

  • Educational institutions

  • School districts

  • City and county governments

  • Economic development organizations

  • Community-based organizations

  • Private entities

  • Faith-based organizations

The Cabinet will seek expertise and experience in overseeing capital grant and community development projects, including reporting obligations. The application will also be expected to show support from community partnerships and to have identified their role in decision-making processes. Applicants must demonstrate that they can continue the program after the funding.

“We have experienced in particular instances in Kansas over the last few years where communities came together, did wonderful things with converting space for childcare, and then have been left struggling to keep a program running and sustain it operationally,” she noted. “We’ve learned from that and want to ensure that we don’t repeat past mistakes, so sustainability planning is important.”

Community leaders interested in applying for the Child Care Community Accelerator can find more information here on the Children’s Cabinet website. Here is a link to the Letter of Interest guidelines.

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