Saying childcare is critical to getting Nevadans back to work, lawmakers on Thursday approved $92.7 million to support childcare providers across the state.
The federal money was authorized through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Act.
Christell Askew of Welfare and Supportive Services said money will go to the 565 licensed childcare businesses outside of the Head Start programs in Nevada. Head Start, she said, receives money directly from the federal government.
She said 95 percent of those providers are open again but many are struggling with reopening costs.
“Before COVID, they were already running on thin margins,” she said.
Askew said the division is looking at, “long-term stabilization of childcare, assessing what their long-term needs are.” But she conceded that they “haven’t worked out all the pieces yet on how the funding will be distributed to the providers.”
She said the details will depend in part on the information the division gets back from the providers.
Lawmakers uniformly agreed high quality childcare is vital to restoring the economy, especially for women who were dramatically affected by the closure of schools with many having to stay home rather than work to care for their children.
“These are the first casualties of the pandemic,” said Senate Finance Chairman Chris Brooks, D-Las Vegas. “Without child care, they will not recover.”
Assembly Minority Leader Robin Titus, R-Wellington, agreed: “It’s very important we have childcare to get Nevadans back to work.”
She said she is in full support of the program but wants assurances lawmakers will get full reports on how the money is distributed.
“We need to make sure we have quality child care for Nevada families so they can get back to work,” said Sen. Heidi Seevers Gansert, R-Reno.
But she said accountability for how the money is spent is crucial.
Assembly Majority Leader Teresa Benitez Thompson, D-Reno, made similar statements saying the long-term goal is to look at how the subsidy is provided and how many families are served.
Lawmakers also approved a $2.8 million contract for Infinite Campus to study and support students who may need assistance. But Republicans led by Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, balked at a portion of the contract that uses an electronic algorithm to identify at risk students who need additional support to be successful. Kieckhefer objected because when he asked to explain how that algorithm works, he was told that information is “proprietary” and lawmakers can’t be told how it works.
“I can’t support this,” he said.
He said turning that responsibility over to an algorithm lawmakers aren’t allowed to see and understand, “just doesn’t allow us to do our job.”
He was joined by eight other Republicans on the joint panel of Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means.