New program funded by American Rescue Plan funds will allocate historic $48 million dollar investment for childcare and early childhood development

HARRIS COUNTY – June 14, 2022, In a 3 to 2 vote, commissioners court approved a new program investing $48 million American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funds for childcare and early childhood development in Harris County. It is the largest known investment of ARPA dollars by any county or city in the nation for early childhood education.

“Early childhood programs have one of the strongest returns on investment of any type of public program. Those positive effects also endure throughout the child’s life, increasing their graduation rates and future earnings while reducing any possible contact with the criminal justice system,” said Judge Hidalgo. “ We have an obligation to go beyond just the minimum standard of funding roads and bridges and public safety. We also have an obligation to support our next generation of workers and innovators and leaders.”

The program will increase accessibility to high quality childcare and early childhood development by 10% in the third-largest county in the nation. Approximately 105,000 children aged 0-3 with working parents live in a quality child care desert in which there are few or no affordable options for quality child care in their area. Due to the high cost of childcare, often one parent is forced to stay home, preventing them from entering the workforce and costing families lost wages.

Since 2020, numerous childcare facilities have been forced to close due to the pandemic, adding burden to existing childcare deserts. This investment seeks to help childcare centers recover and stabilize financially so they can remain open while also providing childcare workers a livable wage to help recruit and retain staff.

Judge Lina Hidalgo has led a groundbreaking effort to expand the availability of childcare and other early childhood education initiatives. Harris County invested nearly $9 million in an Early Childhood Impact Fund, which is supporting home-based child care businesses, infant/toddler literacy, and resources for foster children.

The county also established the $4.7 million COVID-19 Childcare Assistance Program to provide families with learning and childcare opportunities during the pandemic. With an investment of $500,000 in ARPA funds, the county created a Child Tax Credit engagement program that brought in over $13 million in tax credits for Harris County families. The $20 million lead abatement program will test thousands of Harris County children for elevated lead levels and remove lead from their homes. The county has implemented best-in-class family-friendly workplace policies including 12 weeks paid parental leave, additional sick leave and resources for finding child care.