A women's business organization is ramping up efforts to support and create more childcare centers across Connecticut with a new round of business grants.
The Women's Business Development Council and the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood have partnered for several years to create a Childcare Business Opportunity program.
The program has given more than $2.54 million in grants in the last two years alone, supporting 4,430 childcare slots and 3,330 jobs in Connecticut.
The program also offers no-cost business development services for employers.
Group and one-on-one training sessions have proved helpful for childcare businesses taking leaps with their operations.
“When you first open, you’re not breaking even, you’re taking money from your personal account,” Play to Learn Childcare owner Francheska Velazquez said.
“WBDC opened up more doors.”
Velazquez went from operating a home-based center to running multiple centers with the help of the program.
“It is truly amazing to see the direct impact these programs and services have had on many of our childcare providers,” WBDC founder and CEO Fran Pastore said.
“Supporting our childcare system achieves not only positive health outcomes for families, but also benefits our state’s economy as a whole.”
WBDC distributed nearly 40 grants in its previous award round to providers in 26 towns in the state.
Minority-owned business owners made up close to 60% of recipients.
Grant applications are open through April 12 for this year’s grant program.
Four grants make up the program. They range from cash grants to fund startups, to business incentive grants, and emergency and expansion grants.
Labor Shortage Solutions
Childcare is one of the many challenges impacting Connecticut’s stagnant labor market.
A Connecticut Early Childhood Funder Collaborative survey found that 76% of employers said childcare negatively impacts up to 20% of their workforce.
“Working parents paid an enormous price due to the lockdowns and lack of childcare options,” CBIA’s Wyatt Bosworth said.
State lawmakers are considering legislation increasing funding for childcare programs and expanding preschool, mental and behavioral health, and child mentoring programs and services.
Employers have taken steps in the past two years to ease the burden on working parents, but Bosworth said additional help is needed to make childcare more affordable and accessible.
According to state estimates from 2019, 9.5% of Connecticut parents quit a job, did not take a job, or greatly changed their job because of childcare problems—19th highest in the nation.