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Indiana Extends Essential Worker Child Care Scholarships To 2022

Norvell said many providers are still following the same COVID-19 health protocols they started last year, but continue to struggle with low enrollment. (Jeanie Lindsay/IPB News)

The state extended a program to help essential workers pay for child care. 

The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration announced this week scholarships through the Build, Learn, Grow program will be available until March 2022. They were initially slated to end this October. 

Scholarships through the Build, Learn, Grow initiative cover up to 80 percent of child care and early learning costs for essential workers – that includes people who work in health care, food service, and manufacturing, among other professions. 

Nicole Norvell is the director of FSSA's Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning. She said existing funding can support the program for more time as the number of families enrolled remains low. 

"We've not had as many families sign up as we had hoped so we have plenty of funding left to continue," she said. 

Norvell said if the funds go unused, FSSA will consider investing it in other initiatives to support providers and families. But she says, there may be another extension if families start signing up and enough funding remains available. 

"We'll keep a real close eye on that, and yes, if we get towards March and we still have funding left to spend we likely would extend the scholarship opportunity again," Norvell said.

FSSA said the program is designed to help families, but also plays a crucial role in supporting child care and early learning providers as many struggle to enroll children during the pandemic.

Build, Learn, Grow initially made 50,000 scholarships available. Norvell said as of this week 5,682 families have enrolled, but hopes that number goes up as the new school year begins. 

Contact reporter Jeanie at jlindsa@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @jeanjeanielindz.