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Application Process Opens for Workforce Initiatives Fund

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Introduced late last year to assist licensed child care facilities in Chatham County to become Quality Rated through capital improvement mini-grants, the Savannah Economic Development Authority (SEDA) has officially opened the application process for the Workforce Initiatives Fund.

Federal and state mandates require all licensed child care centers to be Quality Rated by Dec. 31, 2020, in order to accept children who require subsidized tuition, including those in foster care, children with special needs, and children living in poverty. In addition to enhanced curriculum and professional development standards, there are physical standards that are required to maintain compliance as a licensed child care center and to be Quality Rated.

Approved by the SEDA Board of Directors in December 2019, the $375,000 Workforce Initiatives Fund is a collaboration between SEDA, Child Care Resource & Referral of Southeast Georgia at Savannah Technical College and United Way of the Coastal Empire.

“We’re hoping that this process is really easy. From the time they apply and they’ve met all the eligibility requirements they would receive a confirmation number within about two weeks and have the potential to be funded within the next two weeks, so the process we intended to be simple and straightforward,” said Leigh Acevedo, director Business Retention and Workforce Initiatives for SEDA.

At this time the grants are only available to licensed facilities in Chatham County that are eligible to become Quality Rated. The UWCE is administering the funds and a full list of eligibility requirements can be found on the organization’s website at uwce.org/wif/.

The grants can cover capital improvements such as shelving, flooring, playground surfaces, building repairs and fence repairs and other improvements.

Leia Dedic, vice president of Strategy and Partnerships for SEDA said the Workforce Initiatives Fund is a historic move for SEDA, and she hopes the initiative can serve as a model for programs in other communities.

“We know the return on investment is so high, and if you can address root solutions that can have positive impacts in the long term as opposed to putting band-aids on other issues later, we see that as being a positive way forward,” she said.

If you’re a licensed child care facility located in Chatham County interested in applying for the Workforce Initiatives Fund, contact Melissa Cole at mcole@savannahtech.edu or 912-443-3016. For more information on the eligibility requirements, go to uwce.org.

“We just hope that other people can use it as a best practice.”

Acevedo said getting the facilities Quality Rated will be a positive thing not only for the centers, but also for the area workforce.

“The lack of disruption to people’s lives by being able to consistently have quality childcare means that they can consistently show up to work. The disruptions that people experience by not having quality childcare or access to it or being able to afford it are disruptions that affect our workforce everyday,” she said.

“We see early early childhood education and quality education as a workforce development issue very clearly and we’re excited that more and more people are seeing those connections as well.”

Savannah Morning News
March 5, 2020

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