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The state this week said $10 million in federal funding is available for child care providers affected by the coronavirus.

The money is part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, but is not part of the $1.25 billion that was allocated to Montana last month. Instead, it is funded by the CARES Act Child Care and Development Block Grant.

About $5 million will go to existing licensed and registered providers and can be used to pay staff, increase sanitation or other measures needed to operate safely. Child care providers were not shut down under directives from Gov. Steve Bullock that closed businesses around the state, though they have been operating under strict protocols to limit exposure of children and employees.

Providers that care for up to six children are eligible for $3,000 emergency payments. Group providers for from seven to 12 children are eligible and centers that have 13 or more are eligible for $8,000. Providers can apply through local Child Care Resource and Referral agencies.

“Many providers ... don’t have a lot of reserves and have pretty lean operating budgets,” said Jamie Palagi, administrator of the Early Childhood and Family Support Division in the state health department. “Any time they’re not providing services or receiving revenue, that causes us concern because they’re so essential to supporting the economy.”

About $3 million of the funding will be available for low-income and at-risk children through Best Beginnings scholarships. The state health department will pay providers through scholarships even if children are not attending. The scholarships, the state said, will let families bring their children back to providers when they return to work and help keep providers open.

Palagi said that’s important for continuity of care for children.

“Maintaining relationships between a child care teacher and the child is crucial for children’s security and positive development,” Palagi said. The state will also reimburse facilities that closed temporarily once they reopen.

Around the state, about 38% of child care providers suspended services due to COVID-19. The department said it hopes funding will help them re-open.

The rest of the funding will go toward temporary child care needs, such as helping a hospital set up a place for the children of employees to get care while employees are on shift.

More information about the funding and how to apply is available at bestbeginnings.mt.gov.

Earlier this week, Bullock announced plans for how the state will spend $123 million of the $1.25 billion in CARES Act funding through emergency grants targeted at small businesses, homeowners and renters and nonprofits. Those grants became available Thursday. More information on that money is available at http://covidrelief.mt.gov.

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