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Possible lifeline for area child care facilities after Wolf announces $655M available in grants

PITTSBURGH — Every day, Maureen Lah’s child care facility gets calls from parents looking for openings.

“I can’t even entertain that right now. My job is to make sure I have enough caregivers for the children that are already here,” she said.

Lah’s business, It’s All About Kids, has around 36 children at the Allison Park location. She said that’s all they can handle because they need more staff.

“I’m not even getting phone calls about employment. If I just get a lead, I feel like I’m lucky,” she said.

Earlier this week, Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration announced plans to distribute $655 million in American Rescue Plan funds to Pennsylvania child care providers. The money aims to help stabilize the industry following the pandemic.

The money can be used to cover things like:

  • personnel costs, including for both recruitment and retention efforts
  • operational costs
  • PPE, cleaning and sanitation supplies
  • reimbursement for past COVID-19-related expenses

“It doesn’t fix the hole. It doesn’t fix the problem. It doesn’t stem the tide that has been building for over 25 years,” said Diane Barber with the Pennsylvania Childcare Association.

Barber said the average wage for a childcare provider is $10.69 an hour while the starting wage at big box stores is $15 an hour. She said while the money will be helpful, what would really make the greatest impact is President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act.

“There is a commitment to raise wages. There is a commitment to stabilize cost for parents. So this is a good bill. This is what we waited for,” Barber said.

In the meantime, Lah said she’s been approved for some state grants, but it’s just a one-time thing. She can’t use it to increase the wages for new hires because it’s not sustainable.

If you’d like to apply for any openings with It’s All About Kids, call 412-486-5595.