The Washington State Department of Commerce last Wednesday announced a second round $1.8 million in grants to 24 organizations related to childcare. The organizations are leading collaborative efforts to expand childcare capacity in communities throughout the state. Grantees will receive just over 38 percent of the award from state general funds administered by Commerce, and a nearly 62 percent match from the generous donors who supported the Safe Start Fund for a Healthy Economic Transition and Recovery.

“This pandemic has impacted individuals and businesses in very different ways, among them a concerning trend in women leaving the workforce due to extraordinary demands on families to teach and care for children at home. A robust and equitable economic recovery depends on families having access to affordable, quality childcare,” said Commerce Director Lisa Brown.

Access to affordable quality childcare has been a growing challenge for the past several years. The pandemic significantly exacerbated those problems.

Brown cited data from a child care industry assessment study commissioned by the state Child Care Collaborative Task Force that showed one in five parents turned down a job offer or promotion because of child care issues. Additionally, she points to the alarming “shecession,” in which four times more women than men left the workforce last September. Women have disproportionately suffered pandemic-related job losses, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since February 2020, women have lost nearly 5.8 million net jobs, accounting for 53.9% of overall net job loss nationwide since the start of the crisis. The numbers are worse for Black and Latina women, with about 1 in 9 unemployed—a rate more than 1.5 times higher than for white men.

Commerce awarded $1.36 million in the first round of grants announced Sept. 10. This second round of community partnership grants will fund projects in Benton, Clallam, Clark, Cowlitz, Ferry, Franklin, Jefferson, King, Kittitas, Klickitat, Okanogan, Pierce, San Juan, Skamania, Snohomish, Skagit, Walla Walla, Whitman and Yakima counties. Grant information is posted here.

Second round childcare partnership grantees are:

  • African Community Housing and Development, $100,000 – Hope Learning Center Partnership project serving South King County
  • Boys and Girls Clubs of Skagit County, $64,440 – Sedro-Woolley Learning Centers project serving Sedro-Woolley, Skagit County
  • Clallam County Economic Development Council, $70,000 – Clallam Child Care Alliance project serving Clallam County
  • Community Child Care Center, $62,775 – Community Early Learning Needs project serving Pullman and Whitman County
  • Community Minded Enterprises, $63,470 – Tri-Cities Child Care Needs Assessment project serving the Tri-Cities area in Benton and Franklin counties
  • Empowering Youth and Families Outreach, $66,600 – EYFO Extended Care Pilot Program with Bellwether Housing project serving South Seattle, King County
  • Everett Community College, $100,000 – Everett Child Care Expansion Planning project serving Everett and Monroe, Snohomish County
  • First 5 FUNdamentals, $78,408 – From Crisis to Stability—Reforming Child Care for Long-Term Success project serving Pierce County
  • Healthy Ferry County Coalition, $87,000 – Ferry County Child Care Planning project serving Ferry County
  • Horn of Africa Services, $90,000 – HOAS Child Care Partnership project serving King County
  • Hugging Tree Legacy, $66,576 – Jefferson County Child Care Expansion project serving Jefferson County
  • Joyce Sobel Family Resource Center, $26,985 – Finding a Local Solution to Rural Service Industry Child Care Needs project serving San Juan Island, San Juan County
  • Kittitas County Health Network, $69,350 – Collaborating to Increase Access to Child Care Opportunities in Kittitas County project serving Kittitas County
  • Machinists Institute, $90,000 – Child Care in the Trades project serving Washington state
  • New Birth Home Now, $90,000 – New Birth Center for Community Inclusion (NBCCI)/Renton Innovation Zone Partnership (RIZP) Collaborative Partnership for Early Learning Expansion project serving Skyway-West Hill, King County
  • North Central Educational Service District, $87,600 – Family, Friends and Neighbor (FFN) Opportunities for Ongoing Learning project serving Okanogan and Ferry counties
  • Orcas Island Community Foundation, $68,000 – Collaborative Planning for Early Childhood Education Access and Quality project serving Orcas Island, San Juan County
  • Play Frontier, $28,185 – Advancing Child Care Access in Rural Washington project serving the Columbia Gorge in Skamania County
  • Reclaiming Our Greatness, $73,975 – Student Family Support Program project serving Seattle, King County
  • Start Early (Ounce of Prevention Fund), $100,000 – Developing a Pipeline of Family Child Care through ParentChild+ Engagement project serving King, Pierce and Yakima counties
  • Walla Walla Community College Foundation, $84,000 – Feasibility of a Valley-Wide Affordable and Accessible Child Care System project serving Walla Walla Valley in Walla Walla County
  • Washington STEM, $100,000 – State of the Children in Southwest Washington project serving Clark County
  • Workforce Southwest Washington, $52,560 – The Business Case for Child Care project serving Cowlitz County
  • Yakima Valley Community Foundation, $90,000 – Economic and Racial Equity for Family Home Providers project in Toppenish and Wapato, Yakima County

“Funding through this program will help us gather more information and develop a plan to address a long-standing need in our community to increase access to quality and affordable childcare so children learn and develop, parents can work to support their families, and our local businesses can maintain the staffing necessary to provide necessary services to the community,” said Robin Read, Executive Director of Kittitas County Health Network.

Commerce established the Safe Start Fund in partnership with Seattle Foundation to support economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic with a public health and equity focus. The Safe Start Fund accepts contributions from individual donors, foundations and corporations, including donations through All in WA, a broad-based philanthropic platform promoting cause and community funds to support workers, families and communities impacted by COVID-19 across Washington state.

“Childcare providers are essential members of our communities, particularly as we move from emergency response to a focus on longer term recovery. We know that even before the COVID-19 pandemic, half a million children in Washington state lacked access to licensed care and the crisis only caused those inequities to grow,” said Tony Mestres, President and CEO of Seattle Foundation. “These childcare partnership grants will allow families and caregivers to return to work by providing quality education and care for our region’s youngest learners, especially those in underserved areas and remote communities.”

Seattle Foundation is hosting the All In WA campaign, on behalf of the nearly 50 cause and community funds, including the Safe Start Fund.