Federal grant money is being sent to West Virginia’s Department of Health and Human Resources to support services for children in pre-K through 5th grade.
The Preschool Development Birth through Five grant includes $2.6 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It will help the agency’s Division of Early Care and Education (ECE) with efforts working with local early learning providers and school districts.
The ECE oversees and regulates childcare in the state, including by licensing and certifying providers. This particular grant funds six “resource and referral agencies,” which help provide parents with child care options and resources.
“For example, if a child is going to West Virginia pre-K, or if they’re eligible for Head Start, do they need childcare before or after?” division director Lisa Ertl said. “We’re kind of looking at how we can strengthen our entire early care and education system throughout the state.”
One of the main uses of the funding will go towards a needs assessment of the state, with Ertl saying the agency would like to see increased childcare accessibility in more rural areas.
“This will be able to help us assess how we can better determine where those gaps in available childcare are, and how we can perhaps solve that issue,” Ertl said.
Though multiple bills are currently in the state legislature that would see the current structure of the DHHR split into three distinct agencies, that would not affect the agency’s federal funding.
The grant helps fund the agency over a three-year cycle, according to the U.S. department’s website.