$66 million headed to support Nebraska child care workers with stipends, student loan aid

By: - November 11, 2022 3:00 am

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OMAHA — In an effort to build up Nebraska’s child care workforce, the state is preparing to distribute $66 million in incentives that include worker stipends and student loan repayments.

The funds target providers and employees and are expected to expand access to quality child care.

Applications for the dollars will be accepted starting in December, state officials announced Thursday.

Difficult decisions

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, from Nov. 14-17, have scheduled virtual information sessions in English and Spanish.

“The lack of quality child care options nationwide has been a continuing barrier forcing families to make difficult decisions such as leaving the workforce,” said Stephanie Beasley, director of the department’s Children and Family Services division. “This investment into Nebraska’s critical workforce will help boost child care options for working families and support professionals doing this important work.”

Mike Medwick, strategic communications manager for First Five Nebraska, which focuses on early childhood care, said the funds are a step in the right direction.

“Anything that moves the needle is important,” he said. “There is a long way to go.”

Medwick said Nebraska ranks sixth in the nation, according to Census data, for the number of children under age 6 who have all parents in the household working.

Legislative work ahead

That reinforces, he said, the “pressing need” for quality child care and workers to serve that population.

Medwick said a variety of strategies are necessary to address the growing demand for professionals in the field.

Challenges include a “high level of commitment in return for low compensation,” he said.

“We have a lot of work to do to make that profession more viable to get into and to thrive,” said Medwick.

First Five Nebraska expects the coming legislative session to see proposals to attract more child care workers.

DHHS spokesman Jeff Powell said the shortage was a hardship before the pandemic and has only gotten worse.

The $66 million comes from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act Child Care Stabilization grant Administration Assistance.

Additional grant funding for child care providers to expand operations are to become available early next year, according to DHHS.

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Cindy Gonzalez
Cindy Gonzalez

Senior Reporter Cindy Gonzalez, an Omaha native, has more than 35 years of experience, largely at the Omaha World-Herald. Her coverage areas have included business and real estate development; regional reporting; immigration, demographics and diverse communities; and City Hall and local politics. She has won awards from organizations including Great Plains Journalism, the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing (SABEW) and the Associated Press. Cindy has been recognized by various nonprofits for community contributions and diversity efforts. She chairs the board that oversees the local university’s student newspaper.