Gov. Tony Evers announced Thursday that an additional $35 million in CARES Act funding will be released in Wisconsin, directed towards early childhood care, education providers and cultural organizations that have struggled with the COVID-19 pandemic.
$30 million of the funding will go toward early care and education to help reopen all facilities in Wisconsin.
Access to early childhood care has become increasingly difficult for Wisconsin families during the pandemic. At its height, nearly 40 percent of early childhood care centers were closed.
That number has dropped to roughly 12 percent of providers still closed in August, but with school around the corner there is heightened importance on those care centers.
“As I’ve said before, what’s best for our kids is what’s best for our state,” Evers said in a release. “Our early care educators stepped up in a big way for Wisconsin families — and their kids — to help keep our state’s economy strong during the pandemic,” Evers said. “These funds are a recognition of the vital role they play in our communities.”
Department of Children and Families Secretary Emilie Amundson said the education sector still has not recovered from the initial impact of the pandemic, and that families need access to childcare.
“Wisconsin families rely on access to child care in order to stay employed,” Amundson said in Evers’ statement. “That is especially true for women, who still carry a disproportionate burden raising children.”
Two grants will open on Sept. 9 for applications — one designated to help provide safe, healthy and high-quality child care opportunities, and the other to help fund staff recruitment and retention efforts. The funding will also help the State Emergency Operation Center make personal protective equipment available for providers statewide.
Along with the $30 million designated for early care and education, Evers announced a $5 million COVID-19 Cultural Organization Grant Program aimed at assisting Wisconsin cultural organizations that have been impacted by the pandemic.
“Our nonprofit art and cultural organizations are a great source of pride, history, and expression for all Wisconsinites,” Evers said. “These organizations also play a pivotal role in both local and statewide economies, including significant tourism activity, and will be critical to our state’s financial recovery.”
The program will help organizations cover lost revenue or cleaning and sanitation, among other costs.
“Nonprofit art and cultural organizations are central to Wisconsin’s culture, heritage, and economy,” Rep. Jodi Emerson, D-Eau Claire, said in a release. “I applaud Governor Evers for this wise investment in Wisconsin’s creative economy.”