By Erik Thorsen, CEO
Childcare has long been an issue in Clatsop County — and throughout Oregon, where most counties are considered “childcare deserts.” Just a couple of weeks ago, I heard about a CMH caregiver who got on childcare wait lists as soon as she knew she was pregnant, and she still didn’t have a place for her child two months after giving birth. With the COVID-19 pandemic, finding reliable childcare in the area was made even more difficult.
Our caregivers frequently ask us for help with childcare. CMH has been involved in a county task force examining childcare and expansion opportunities since last fall. Earlier this week, we were pleased to announce some relief CMH will offer eligible caregivers in the form of a monthly stipend, as well as assistance offered to the Lil’ Sprouts city childcare program to expand its enrollment.
In short, a monthly stipend will be offered to eligible full-time and part-time caregivers who have children age 10 and under in the home. This stipend will be offered from September-December 2020, then throughout 2021. Caregivers can receive up to $2400 a year with the stipend to offset childcare costs. Caregivers must meet certain household income levels, apply and be approved to receive the stipend.
Additionally, CMH is pleased to be partnering with Astoria School District (ASD) to assist in the relocation of the Lil’ Sprouts program from the Gray School building to the Astoria Recreation Center (ARC). This move is an exciting step forward for the city’s childcare program. Additional classroom space at the ARC will lead to a greater post-COVID enrollment capacity and the ability to better customize areas for small-child care. With the extraordinary changes to the academic year brought on by COVID-19, the freed-up classroom space will also provide extra instructional areas for ASD.
CMH recognizes the value of childcare services and is aware that many of our critical caregivers rely on these programs to be able to continue the important work of providing health care to the community. CMH supported the Lil’ Sprouts move with a $10,000 donation to offset construction costs at the ARC, and we are also backing grant applications seeking other funds for the space.
While our efforts will not solve the childcare issues in the county, we hope they provide some relief and peace of mind for our caregivers. We will continue meeting with the county task force and considering other ideas to help in this area.
Media Contact: Nancee Long, 503-338-4504
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