Policy Resource

First Look: Application for EHS-Child Care Partnerships Hits the Street!

Jun 18, 2014

It’s been less than a year since we all joined together to #Rally4Babies and assert that learning happens from the start—and so should our investments. Yet, already we have a very tangible step forward for infants and toddlers.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) just released the widely anticipated Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for grants to expand Early Head Start (EHS) or form Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships.

These grants came about because, in the wake of the President’s early learning initiative, the early care and education community advocated for the needs of infants and toddlers, and Congress responded with $500 million in total funding from Fiscal Year 2014 appropriations—a big win for babies in a tight budget year. These grants not only will expand resources for early care and learning for infants and toddlers. They also will provide an exciting opportunity for the field to engage in creative thinking and doing around high-quality services for vulnerable young children across settings.

Applicants will have 75 days to digest the application requirements and get their proposals electronically to HHS. The Department has a centralized webpage for all things related to the grants, including how to apply and FAQ’s.

We’ll be going through the announcement and analyzing in greater detail, but here is a first look at some things to note:

  • High-Quality Services: All entities applying must provide high-quality, comprehensive, and continuous early care and education for infants and toddlers in centers and/or family child care homes. Eligible entities include public entities, such as states, and private non-profit or for-profit entities, including community- or faith-based organizations. Organizations that seek to build a birth-to-five continuum of services will receive priority. All applicants must describe transition plans for the children as they leave EHS programs.

  • Funding and Award Levels: While $500 million was appropriated, the FOA says HHS may fund up to $650 million. This level leaves room to draw on applications submitted through this current process should additional funding be provided for FY 2015, as requested by the Administration’s budget. The award ceiling for individual grants is slightly under $55 million, but the average award is expected to be $1.5 million.

  • Funding Allocations: The available funds will be allocated by formula among the states. These allocation levels are simply the total amount for grants to be awarded in individual states. They do NOT mean that the funds flow automatically to states. Even if a state agency is applying for funds, other eligible entities within the state should not hesitate to apply as well.

  • Ages of Children: The appropriations language specified that the grants can be used for serving children from birth through age 3. In practice, however, only family child care programs will be able to use these grant funds to serve 3-year-olds. Center-based programs can only apply to serve children from birth through age 2. Determining a simple way to incorporate 3-year-olds in center-based programs, where Head Start standards are very different from those governing EHS programs, proved elusive at this stage of the process.

  • Types of Proposals: Potential grantees can submit proposals for one of three different approaches to increase the number of children in spaces meeting EHS standards. The first is a pure partnership approach, in which all funded EHS slots would be offered through child care partnerships. The second would be a pure expansion of an existing EHS program or the creation of a new one. The third would be a mixture of the first two. Pure partnership applications get extra review points and top priority. Mixed approaches with at least 50 percent of children served through partnerships get a high priority, but no extra points.

  • Child Care Subsidies: Partnership applications must demonstrate that at least 25 percent of EHS-eligible children served in slots funded by the grant will have child care subsidies. Programs that can raise that proportion to 40 percent will get bonus points. HHS recommends, but does not require, that applicants propose providing at least 72 slots to adequately support staffing and infrastructure needs.

  • Priority Communities: Proposed programs in Promise Zones or high-poverty Zip codes will receive additional points.

  • Start-up Costs: Funds for activities such as facility renovations, classroom supply purchases, licensing, etc., to help programs get off the ground can be requested and would be separate from the base operational budget to serve children.

  • Matching Funds: Grantees must provide 20 percent of the total cost of the project, in accordance with Head Start requirements. HHS emphasizes that right away potential applicants should take note of the procedures for submitting applications so they will do so correctly and on time and not get tripped up by seemingly simple tasks that can complicate submissions, especially for first time applicants for federal grants. The FOA includes resources to help develop proposals as well as a method by which to ask HHS questions.

In addition, the ZERO TO THREE Policy Center has created a webpage of resources relevant to the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships. These resources will help programs, communities, and states consider how they can best structure and implement partnerships. A new fact sheet from the Policy Center on how partnerships can benefit young children and families is included. Explore these resources at www.zerotothree.org/ehs-ccpartnerships.

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