The State of Montana through the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services will be using $18 million in ARPA funds to increase access to child care throughout the state.

We spoke to Patty Butler, the Early Childhood Services Bureau Chief with DPHHS on Thursday about the new funding.

“This is part of the COVID relief funding from ARPA  (American Rescue Plan Act) that came through the Child Care Development Block Grant funding through ACF (Administration for Children and Families) from federal funds,” said Butler. “We were approved by the Commission to use this money to increase the affordability of childcare, and to increase access to childcare in underserved communities, or segments of the community that may be in a child care ‘desert’.”

Butler said the new awardees had just been announced.

“We just released the awardees 31 of the awardees for those childcare innovation grants in Montana,” she said. “In Missoula, the greater Missoula Family YMCA is going to do on an expansion project to meet the needs in Missoula, and then the certified United Way of Missoula County is going to come together to partner with several entities to have a startup and to explore a new way of providing services to work with several different providers.”

Butler said there were certain requirements that had to be met in order to qualify for the grant funding.

“One of the criteria is that for each application and for each grantee, there must be an increase in capacity,” she said. “So there must be additional slots for childcare, which means that there has to be licensed childcare involved. One of the end results is either to increase an established childcare provider’s ability or to establish new, licensed childcare.”

Butler said one requirement requested by the DPHHS is that child care must be available and provided to parents who work non-traditional hours.

“We asked for their plan on how they might expand our plan for meeting family's needs for non-traditional care hours,” she said. “Those hours happen early in the morning into late at night. They happen on weekends, and there is a workforce in Montana that has a need for this care that outside of an eight to five workday.”

Missoula, Mineral, and Ravalli counties were included in the list of recipients of the ARPA funding.

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