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Local childcare providers to get $6 million in relief grants

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More than $6 million will be coming to Chaves County child care businesses through grants funded by the American Rescue Plan, the New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department said Wednesday.

The department has awarded more than $157 million from the federal coronavirus relief bill to 1,004 child care businesses in the state, according to a press release from the department.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services distributed more than $24 billion to states, territories and tribal agencies for the Child Care Stabilization Grants. The New Mexico ECECD received $197 million, with 10% of that earmarked for administrative costs, leaving more than $177 million for direct grants, according to the press release.

The application process was open from Sept. 1 to Oct. 1. The grants will be distributed in six payments, with the first payments sent out Oct. 15, the press release said. The recipients must have half the amount obligated for spending by December and the other half by Sept. 30, 2022.

Thirty-three Chaves County child care providers will receive a total of $6,038,450, according to information provided by Micah McCoy, communications director for the department. The grant recipients include individuals, church-based pre-schools and daycares, day care businesses, and after school programs at four Roswell Independent School District elementary schools.

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The funds can be used in a variety of ways, but McCoy said the department is hearing that most recipients will use the grants to help with staffing.

“One of the biggest capacity problems is we just don’t have enough teachers working in these situations,” he said.

“The money can be used for compensation, benefits, retention bonus, hiring incentives, as well as just doing things like retiring bad debt that was incurred during the pandemic because of increased costs and lower enrollment,” he said.

Facilities maintenance, updates of equipment and supplies, insurance and utilities are also among the possible uses. Child care providers had to indicate the use of funds on their applications.

One of the local recipients, Noah’s Ark Christian Preschool and Daycare, 501 N. Sycamore Ave., will use its funds for some long-needed updates to the facility as well as educational materials, director Susan Torres said.

The school has an enrollment of 123 students and has 32 teachers.

She said the daycare and preschool, based at the First Church of the Nazarene, is already working with AK Sales and Consulting of Roswell to design new playgrounds.

“We recently put up 6-foot metal fencing around both of our playgrounds for safety. We have a little bit of stuff on the little playground, but we are going to get professional school-grade equipment out there and they’re designing us a playground right now,” she said.

Updates inside the classrooms and facility will be going on, too.

“We’re revamping our curriculum, so we need a lot of things in our classroom to go along with our curriculum,” Torres said.

In the kitchen, cabinets, drawers and a dishwasher will be replaced.

“We’ve always replaced furniture, but we’ll be able to do more replacing of furniture in our classrooms. We’re going to replace all the tables and chairs in our cafeteria,” she said.

She said Noah’s Ark did not close down during the pandemic, although classrooms have had to be quarantined. They were able to keep their entire staff employed even through summer 2020 when only the children of essential workers were enrolled, with as few as 14 children. The church had applied for loans for personal protection equipment, and one of the requirements was to keep staff employed full time.

With fewer students, they found ways to keep the teachers busy.

“We were able to paint classrooms, clean out classrooms. We did so much work over the summer while we had only essential workers’ kids,” she said.

She said that’s part of the reason she believes the facility has not had difficulty in hiring new staff. In the last two months, she said she’s filled four positions and two more recent hires will bring Noah’s Ark up to full staff.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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