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What does the end of ARPA funding mean for child care?


One year into the public health crisis that rocked central Ohio and families and communities across the world, in March of 2021, President Biden signed into action the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). This was a $1.9 trillion plan to help the United States fight the economic crisis it was facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Included in this plan was close to $40 billion to be used to support the child care workforce and families counting on them: 

  • $24 billion was allotted in the form of new Child Care Stabilization Grants which were to be used to help child care providers in centers and family child care address operating costs, supplies, and compensation for much-needed staff  
  • $15 billion was also added into the existing Child Care Development Fund, which helps low-income families pay for child care. 

Child Care Funding Released in American Rescue Plan | The Administration for Children and Families ( 

States had to act to claim their full share of the ARPA funding, and then designate, allocate, and expend those dollars. Deadlines for each step and for different parts of ARPA are different and can be confusing, but the first of the deadlines passed on September 30, 2023, when states had to designate their child care stabilization funds. 

Now, with this first ARPA deadline passed, a “child care cliff” looms ahead as the last of the federal relief funding makes its way through to providers and families across the country. 

State Stabilization Funds

“We are open today because of the stabilization grant. We are so thankful. We were able to pay for our payroll and other resources because of this. Without [it] we would not be open.” – Franklin County Center Adminstrator

While not every state claimed all of their funding, Ohio did, and moved quickly to put those dollars to good use. The state of Ohio received just under $800M in stabilization funds. Over 6,000 child care programs, including 3,995 Center-based programs and 2,260 Family Child Care programs have received support through this funding. The average awards have been $189,500 for center-based programs and $33,600 for Family Child Care programs, and have helped many providers cover staffing and personnel costs in a challenging recruiting environment.

The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) also outlines the positive impact that ARPA funds have made possible in different states, including additional funding in Mississippi for family child care and California temporarily waiving copayments for child care. While the deadline to use ARPA stabilization grant funding was September 30, 2023, any remaining unspent state ARPA child care funding must be used by September 30, 2024.

Ohio ARP Child Care Stabilization Fact Sheet ( 

Local Relief

“Receiving the Franklin County RISE Scholarship was a game-changer and a huge relief financially. My daughter has now been enrolled in a child care program for several months. Even though she’s still less than a year old, I can already tell how much being in a program has made a difference for her.” – Megan, Franklin County mom

In addition, ARPA included a state and local fiscal relief fund that allowed local governments like Franklin County and the City of Columbus to invest in child care. The resulting Franklin County RISE Program provides child care scholarships for families, incentives for child care programs, and assistance for early childhood educators. For families like Megan’s, Franklin County RISE has made all the difference. 

While this additional funding has kept many child care centers and family child care homes afloat for the past two years, it isn’t permanent and so far, there has not been progress in making another round of federal relief funding available.  The passing of the September 30, 2023 deadline put into stark relief that more attention to and investment in long-term solutions is needed.   

So, what does this mean for child care in Ohio? 

The short- and long-term effects remain to be seen. Without question, ARPA child care funding has made an enormous difference in supporting child care programs and advancing equity and opportunity nationally and in Ohio.  

The stabilization funding was essential to helping child care providers keep their programs running, so without new federal investments soon, it appears the child care crisis will worsen. The effects won’t be immediate but are likely to spill out into 2024 and beyond. In fact, in Ohio there are still some ARPA dollars to come through to communities, including via locally-designed, federally-funded programs like Franklin County RISE. What we do know is that we are going to need the federal government’s help. 

The government may have avoided a shutdown at least through November 17th last month, but it missed the ominous child care funding milestone. Even with the agreement to keep the government running, there is none of the additional child care funding we so desperately need with ARPA quickly ending. Some officials are currently calling for these much-needed investments. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have proposed The Child Care Stabilization Act, a bill which calls for $16B to child care providers to ensure their ability to stay open and provide quality child care to families across the country.

Associated Press: With thousands of child care programs at risk of closing, Democrats press for more money

Meanwhile, in the Appropriations Committee, we must protect the much-needed annual investments in child care and Head Start against threatened cuts. While the situation for children, families, and educators remains dire, we remain hopeful that child care advocates in Congress can help pave the way for more federal funding. 

Opportunities to Learn More 

At Action for Children, our Central Ohio Child Care Provider Survey just closed. Thanks to the data and stories from hundreds of early childhood educators in home and center-based child care programs, we’ll have more to share about the impact of federal child care dollars and what is needed ahead. In addition to tracking key markers like enrollment and capacity over time, this survey will also include more specific information about what the end of the stabilization grants will mean for child care in central Ohio.

In the meantime, we encourage you to use the National Women’s Law Center’s Amplification Toolkit for more information on how you can help.

Author: Shea McHugh, Advocacy and Advancement Associate at Action for Children  

Action for Children is the local child care resource and referral agency for central Ohio, and is committed to assuring quality early learning experiences for all children. Our services focus on transforming the lives of children by supporting the everyday heroes who most influence our children’s early growth; caregivers, educators, parents, and guardians. Learn More.   

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