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Help is Here: New System Supports for Arizona’s Early Childhood Programs

Help is Here: New System Supports for Arizona’s Early Childhood Programs

The COVID-19 pandemic brought significant losses and serious challenges to Arizona’s children and families. It also highlighted the needs of early childhood providers around the state. Fortunately, new funding made possible by federal and state investments are providing much-needed relief to support child care in our state.

Supports include:

Expansion of Quality First

The budget recently signed by Gov. Doug Ducey for state fiscal year 2022 includes funding for Arizona’s Child Care Administration (CCA) through the federal Child Care and Development Grant to expand Quality First by up to 800 more providers over the next three years, nearly doubling the number of programs enrolled.

There are currently more than 1,000 child care and preschool providers voluntarily enrolled in the Quality First program with more than 200 on a waiting list. The additional money will eliminate the waiting list and allow for hundreds of additional programs to enroll in the program.

Providers who enroll in Quality First receive individualized coaching, funding for the purchase of educational materials and equipment and specialized assistance from a team of experts. The new funding will also provide access to early childhood mental health consultation to participants who serve children in the care of the Arizona Department of Child Safety.

Interested programs must submit an application online at qualityfirstaz.com.

Child Care Stabilization Grant

Arizona’s Child Care Administration (CCA) is pleased to announce a new Child Care Stabilization Grant (CCSG) Program that will help child care providers with operational costs to stay open, serving children in Arizona. The CCSG program will run through June 30, 2023.  Funds are made available to Arizona through the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) relief funding appropriated through the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

Eligible providers include DES non-certified relative providers, DES family child care providers (including in-home providers), DHS licensed centers, DHS certified group homes, tribal child care providers and military child care providers.

Providers may utilize grant funds for a variety of expenses including salaries and benefits for employees, bonus incentives for hiring and retention, licensing fees, liability insurance, tuition and registration relief for families, lease and mortgage payments, utilities, classroom materials and supplies.

While child care providers must apply to receive funds, grants are not competitive. Once a child care provider submits a complete application, is determined eligible, and agrees to the grant program terms, they will receive funding. 

Applicants must be open and providing child care services at the time of application and for the duration of the grant. Grant awards will be paid monthly through June 30, 2023. Child care providers will have until September 30, 2023 to spend the grant funds. More details, including the grant application and FAQs are available by visiting: https://des.az.gov/services/child-and-family/child-care/child-care-stabilization-grant.

Provider Rate Changes 

Child care providers who are contracted with the Department of Economic Security (DES) will see changes to the maximum reimbursement rate, effective October 1, 2021. Details are included in the Provider Registration Agreement. 

Rate changes include: 

  • Increase to the 50th percentile of the 2018 Market Rate Survey (MRS). 
  • Increase infant and toddler rates to the 75th percentile of the 2018 MRS. 
  • Increase reimbursement rates for Department of Child Safety-referred children at 75th percentile of the 2018 Market Rate Survey. 
  • DCS children will receive full day rates regardless of the number of hours in care.

In addition, providers with Quality First 3-star, 4-star, 5-star rating or that are nationally accredited, will receive a tiered reimbursement rate of 35%.

To learn more about these and other updates, or to apply to become a DES contracted provider, visit the Provider Registration Agreement website

Essential Workers Child Care Relief Scholarship

The Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) is pleased to announce that the Essential Workers Child Care Relief (EWCCR) Scholarship has been extended through September 30, 2021. Families’ authorization for child care services under this scholarship has been automatically extended, and no action is required to continue to receive this scholarship. To date, more than 6,000 families and 10,000 children have received child care services as a result of this program.

The scholarship is available to eligible essential workers in the following classifications:

  • Health care
  • First responders
  • Essential government operations
  • Grocery store and food bank workers
  • Licensed/certified child care

To learn more or access the application, visit https://des.az.gov/services/child-and-family/child-care/emergency-child-care-scholarship-program

AZToolkit

The Arizona Association for the Education of Young Children (AZAEYC) is offering each DHS-licensed and DES-certified child care provider one complimentary AZToolkit subscription from July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022. This is made possible thanks to funding from the Arizona Department of Economic Security through federal Child Care & Development Block Grant funds.

AZToolkit is a one-stop website designed specifically for Arizona’s early education providers with over 1,800 resources and tools to save time, maximize funding, and improve quality. Providers will benefit greatly from the savings section as well as the recruitment portal job bank where they can upload job descriptions and post to the most popular job search sites in just a few clicks.

To learn more about the AZToolkit, visit azaeyc.org/toolkit. Self-paced AZToolkit webinars are available for professional development credit in the Arizona Early Childhood Workforce Registry including “Tips for Making the Most of Your AZToolkit Subscription” and “Using AZToolkit Job Bank to Recruit & Hire Qualified Staff”.