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Tennessee will create 60 new childcare centers with some of the final COVID stimulus money

Childcare has been a key barrier keeping some parents from returning to the workforce.
Parker Knight
Childcare has been a key barrier keeping some parents from returning to the workforce.

The YMCA and the Boys & Girls Club are planning nearly 10,000 new childcare spots across Tennessee with the state’s help. The money is coming from what’s left of COVID stimulus funding.

The state already works with these nonprofits and subsidizes childcare for those who qualify. That money also comes from the federal government each year through a block grant. But, it can only be used toward teachers and supplies, not buildings and transportation, according to officials from the Department of Human Services. So, this $19.4 million in COVID stimulus money will help offset the cost of establishing at least 60 new centers.

Many will go in rural communities, says DHS assistant commissioner Cherrell Campbell-Street, “particularly in those areas that we have designated as childcare deserts. There are actually several counties in our state that do not have reliable childcare centers.”

DHS officials say they believe the childcare spots can be sustained even when the stimulus money runs out. The YMCA is offering spots starting at six weeks of age. Boys & Girls Club will work with children starting at age 5.

The proposal got a green light from the Financial Stimulus Accountability Group on Friday, pitched as a way to get more parents back to work.

“If we have any hope of meeting our goals of increasing Tennessee’s labor participation rate, healthy, safe and affordable childcare is at the base of that,” DHS Commissioner Clarence Carter says.

The FSAG, as it’s known at the state capitol, is made up of mostly Republican officials, including Gov. Bill Lee, and has directed the spending of roughly $3 billion. But there’s been limited public participation. The meetings are quietly held each month in a small conference room or virtually.

Blake Farmer is Nashville Public Radio's senior health care reporter. In a partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, Blake covers health in Tennessee and the health care industry in the Nashville area for local and national audiences.
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