As the D.C. region returns to work and school, many local families are having a hard time finding child care.
In Washington, D.C., that may soon change. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education recently announced millions in grants that will help build new child care centers.
During the pandemic, the News4 I-Team reported nearly 5,000 child care facilities in the region had shut down. Since then, most licensed child care centers in the District have reopened.
“We have actually increased licensed capacity in the District over the past two and a half years, during the pandemic," the District's Deputy Superintendent of Early Learning Sara Mead said. "We have seen some child development facilities close but we've seen more new facilities open than have closed."
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D.C. currently has 491 facilities and 30 remained closed. Some of the closed facilities are in federal offices whose workers have not returned, Mead said.
While the District has more licensed child care slots now than two years ago, there is still a shortage of spaces for infants and toddlers, Mead said.
“It’s hard to get a finger on demand but what we do know is that there are many neighborhoods within the District where there are three or more times as many infants and toddlers as there are slots available,” Mead said.
The Access to Quality Child Care Grant, administered by the Low Income Investment Fund, is aiming to close that gap. The $10 million in grants will go to licensed child care operators to help them either expand, improve or build new facilities.
“We anticipate that we will start seeing some new facility slots opening up this year, over the course of 2023 and then that we will continue to see those slots opening up for a couple more years afterwards,” Mead said.
This is the second time the District has awarded child care grants. In 2018, D.C. awarded about $9 million in similar grants to build new facilities. That round of grants resulted in about 1,200 new child care slots.
If you need a child care facility or related financial help, you can go to mychildcare.dc.gov or call 202-829-2500.