By Karen Morfitt

LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4)– Child care providers across the state have an opportunity to get emergency funding from the state. Gov. Jared Polis in partnership with the Colorado Department of Human Services will use nearly $300 million in stimulus money to help stabilize the child care Industry.

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“For Colorado to move forward, we need to ensure hard-working parents and those returning to the workforce have the peace of mind that their children are receiving high-quality care and that our terrific child care centers can thrive,” said Polis in a statement.

Aimee Dixon and Mara Hackett own Colorado Kids Academy together. In the six years they’ve been open, they’ve seen their share of ups and downs but nothing could have prepared them for a pandemic.

“We literally had to change the way students came into the building, every step of the day and every step of our day we had to reevaluate it,” Dixon said.

For nearly two years now they have at times navigated temporary closures, increased costs even fewer students enrolling.

“I think for a while you start to feel like can anyone see us? We need help here and we are small and unique in that way but everyone is hit the same way,” Hackett said.

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They have been able to keep their doors open but many facilities have not.

The state hopes the early childhood stimulus fund will ease some of that burden.

“I think the key here is that everyone depends on someone who depends on childcare when families have access to high-quality child care they are able to go to work and go to school and strengthen Colorado’s economy,” Mary Alice Cohen, Director of Colorado’s Office of Early Childhood said.

According to Cohen, the money can be used to support business operations. Things liking paying rent or mortgage, buying supplies or paying employees.

“In addition to providers having to close their doors another big challenge for providers is not having enough staff, many are not operating at full capacity,” she said.

There are roughly 4,700 licensed child care facilities across the state and everyone is eligible to receive a grant.

The amount will be based on size and quality of care with payments being distributed over nine months.

Colorado Kids Academy submitted their application on the first day and There’s no question for Hackett or Dixon where that money will go.

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“We really believe that teachers are the core of our school, so how can we make their lives a little bit easier,” Dixon said.

Eligible child care providers should have received an email with a unique link to the grant application. Applications are rolling and providers can apply at any time between now and Sept. 30, 2022 to begin receiving monthly payments. The first payment will go out by Feb. 11, 2022. Providers must apply by Jan. 28, 2022 to be included in the Feb. 11 payment.

Additional information on the Child Care Stabilization grants and other early childhood stimulus opportunities can be accessed at coecstimulus.com.

Karen Morfitt