HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The Wolf Administration announced plans to boost an industry that’s been crucial for many families. The plan is to distribute $655 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to stabilize Pennsylvania’s child care industry.

Licensed child care providers will be able to submit applications for one-time grants. The department says the grant money can be used to cover almost any expense needed to help operations and fight the impacts of COVID-19.

Last year, Pennsylvania distributed $220 million dollars in federal COVID-19 aid to child care facilities that were hit hard by the pandemic.

Get daily news, weather, breaking news and alerts straight to your inbox! Sign up for the abc27 newsletters here

“This is an unprecedented amount of funding that we hope and believe will help these businesses and nonprofit organizations shore up their finances, recruit and retain early childhood professionals, and build capacity to serve more children, especially in communities where working families are struggling to access affordable child care options,” Acting Secretary Snead said. “Our goal with this funding distribution is to offset those challenges and create a pathway for recovery from this pandemic – not just for child care, but for our economy as a whole.”

The Dept. of Human Services is partnering with Penn State’s Institute of State and Regional Affairs to create a fair distribution plan that maximizes every ounce of the money being used. At least 90% of total funding will be used to give grant funding directly to eligible providers who apply.

“OCDEL issued small grants quickly during the onset of the pandemic, while collaborating with the Institute to gather and use quality data to inform later funding decisions. Over multiple rounds of funding, Pennsylvania has been responsive to both urgent needs and emerging research findings,” Dr. Philip Sirinides, the institute’s director said. “OCDEL is now in a position to distribute ARPA stabilization grants through an equitable and data-driven approach.”

DHS created an online application that’s available starting Monday. Child care providers have the ability to use funding for various reasons, including costs in personnel, operational, health and safety, equipment, goods, mental health services and reimbursement for past related expenses.

Providers will have nine months after the application is approved to utilize their allocated funds. It’s available to those with a license in good standing that have been open since March 11, 2021, or if shuttered from COVID-19, that plan to reopen by the end of the month.

“The ARPA child care stabilization dollars are essential for immediate recovery efforts and point to the necessity of long-term reinvestment in this critical two-generation workforce issue,” Executive Director of Pa. Early Learning Investment Commission Andrea Heberlein said.

More information is available on the American Rescue Plan Act’s Stabilization Grants page.