EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — El Paso County Commissioners Court voted Monday, Aug. 14 to spend nearly $2 million of COVID stimulus funds to help improve access to child care in El Paso County and help more child-care providers gain state certification.

The County has received $163 million in American Rescue Plan funds, often called the COVID Stimulus Plan. Monday, Commissioners Court voted to use $2,048,550 of the COVID-relief funds, with most of that money going to support child care. About $187,000 will be used for “digital integration, incumbent worker training, and support for businesses located in Qualified Census Tracts (QCT’s) and the rest going to child-care support,” according to the news release.

“The COVID-19 pandemic caused many daycares to close in-person activities and many working families were left without child care, and even though daycare centers have since reopened, there remains a persistent child-care shortage as child-care employment levels have not fully rebounded. Further, new legislation will require many of the existing child-care providers be ‘Texas Rising Star’ certified by a certain date or else lose much needed funding,” according to the news release.

The program approved by the Court Monday calls for: (1) mentoring and provision of technical assistance to child-care providers on curriculum and materials necessary to become “quality certified”, i.e., Texas Rising Star, by Oct. 1; (2) providing aid to non-licensed home-based providers to pay for child-care license and registration in order for those providers to be able to access other state and federal resources and thus increase child-care capacity; and (3) the creation of paid internships and incentives for high-school students studying early childhood education and those who wish to become post-secondary education majors and place them with providers who are experiencing worker shortages.