NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Millions in COVID-19 pandemic relief money expires this weekend, and now daycare facilities across Middle Tennessee are scrambling to figure out what’s next.
On Saturday, Sept. 30, money from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Childcare Stabilization grant will come to a halt. In Tennessee, roughly $540 million in grants have been given to agencies across the state.
“Everything is outpaced income tremendously. For us to try to even stay on the lower end of keeping up is a huge struggle for us,” said Kristie Ryan, the executive director at Fannie Battle Day Home in East Nashville.
The facility has received $400,000 in grant money in the last two years with the final round, a reduced amount, coming in the next few days. Administrators are working to figure out how they will replace the funding once the government grant dries up.
“There are so many more people who are involved in putting the pieces in place to allow us to do more. So, trying to get in touch with our legislators both locally and nationally, trying to let them know how important these kids are,” said Ryan.
Staff at the facility help care for around 100 kids daily. Money from ARPA has helped to raise pay for staff, free up money for needed repairs around the building, and offer benefits to workers.
“When I became executive director in 2020, our starting rate for someone with little to no experience was $12 an hour. In that amount of time, we’re up $15 an hour with plans to increase it again one more time this fall,” said Ryan. “When I came on, we didn’t have any benefits of any sort. We have since added vision and dental benefits.”
Average salary wages for staff members were also raised to $18 an hour using the money. The facility has a year to spend the last of the ARPA funding, but the time will also be used to figure out how to secure new funding as their waitlist grows with families from daycares that might close their doors.
“That’s the biggest I think facing our community. As much as all of these other organizations would love to bring in more children, we can’t and meet our licensing requirements,” said Ryan.