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City of Columbus Announces $3.5 Million for New Child Care Initiatives

Funds will support affordability scholarships as well as signing bonuses and marketing efforts to attract new teachers

[Columbus, OH] – Today Mayor Andrew J. Ginther and other city and community leaders announced $3.5 million in American Rescue Plan funding to support working families and address critical labor shortages in the child care industry. Initiatives receiving funds include signing bonuses and a competitive marketing campaign to help attract new teachers and affordability scholarships targeting working-class families and female trade workers and small-business owners.

“As the pandemic continues, working families across Columbus, like much of the nation, still face significant hurdles when reentering the workforce, especially when trying to secure affordable, reliable child care,” said Mayor Ginther. "By dedicating these resources to reduce their costs, as well as help the industry increase capacity to meet demand, we are providing vital relief to individuals and families doing their best to lead happy, healthy and productive lives during what remains a very challenging and uncertain time.”

“Families in Columbus deserve affordable, convenient child care and early-learning choices,” said Columbus City Council President Shannon G. Hardin. “Not only are these critical investments for the development of Columbus’ youngest residents, but they give families the flexibility to earn more and build a better life.”

According to the Ohio Association of Child Care Providers, 76% of Ohio child care centers currently have openings to hire new staff, while 61% have either closed or reduced classroom sizes due to personnel shortages. Forty-nine percent of child care centers have denied new enrollments as a result of inadequate staffing levels, and 50% have enacted waiting lists until additional staff members are hired.

The city is dedicating $500,000 to fund 500 one-time $1,000 signing bonuses to help child care centers recruit new teachers or rehire those who previously left the labor market. Another $500,000 will support a marketing campaign to assist in recruitment efforts. Both initiatives will be led and administered by Action for Children, a child care resource and referral agency for central Ohio.

At the same time, the state of Ohio has one of the lowest income eligibility limits for child care subsidies in the nation, creating considerable financial pressures for many working-class families – with the average cost of child care exceeding $10,000 per year. Furthermore, a July 2021 Politico article found that 1.8 million women have left the workforce during the pandemic.

To address these issues, the city is devoting $2.5 million for 250 scholarships of up to $10,000 for low-income families earning too much to qualify for subsides.

“Access to high-quality child care is a matter of basic infrastructure that supports our economy and invests in the future by preparing our kids for success,” said Council President Pro Tem and Education Chair Elizabeth Brown. “If we want to do right by families, and our critical early-learning workforce, we must continue focusing on investments that sustain an affordable and equitable early-learning landscape that all families can access and where workers are supported.”

“Access to high-quality, affordable child care is one of the greatest challenges families face and often is a barrier to economic mobility for low-income moms and dads,” said Franklin County Commissioner Erica C. Crawley. “This is a workforce issue particularly for mothers, whose salaries are adversely impacted throughout their careers, due to their disproportionate childrearing responsibilities. This announcement today works well with Franklin County’s efforts to ensure our children have access to high-quality child care.”

Legislation authorizing the use of these funds will be presented to Columbus City Council in the coming weeks.