Nearly 7,000 child care providers across the state now have the chance to apply for funding.By Bryant Reed

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — More than $600 million is now available to help improve child care in Pennsylvania.

Governor Tom Wolf is using $655 million from the American Rescue Plan to try to stabilize Pennsylvania’s child care industry.

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“This is an unprecedented amount of funding that we hope and believe will help these businesses and non-profit organizations sure up their finances,” said Acting Secretary of the Department of Human Services Meg Snead

Nearly 7,000 child care providers across the state can apply for funding to help keep their doors open.

It is money that is more than needed, according to Emily Neff, who is with Trying Together, a Pittsburgh-based advocacy group that conducted its own study on child care issues.

“We’ve been hearing from kindergarten teachers that they’re noticing gaps from the past couple of years because children didn’t have as much access,” Neff said.

The study shows that across the state, nearly 26,000 kids sit on child care waitlists and more than 34,000 could be in classrooms if there were enough teachers to fill them.

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Neff said this money should help child care groups bring on new hires.

“What’s great about these stabilization grants is that they’re going to go directly to providers, and they can use them for a number of costs, including personal costs like wages benefits and bonuses,” Neff said.

Linda Grinage, who owns Blessed Assurance Christian Early Learning Center, has experienced the issues first hand.

“Barely surviving,” Grinage said. “I’m down to a skeletal, three staff members. Before COVID, I had nine staff, including myself.”

She said her waitlist is as long as it has been in 20 years, and there’s not much she can do for parents.

Grinage said the money will help her but only to an extent. She believes until there is a long-term fix, many providers will find themselves back in the same situation in a few months.

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The Wolf administration said once an application is completed, officials believe it should take 45 days before the application is reviewed and the funding is sent out.