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Press Release

Release Date: July 28, 2022
by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office

The Chickasaw Nation is offering Childcare Stabilization Grants to eligible child care providers within the Chickasaw Nation service area. The grants offer financial relief to help offset unexpected business costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. These grants are designed to help support operation services so they may continue without limiting staff or shutting down.

“This grant has proven to be a tremendous success and wonderful opportunity for child care providers,” said Sandra Manuel, director of family assistance within the Chickasaw Nation Department of Education. “It offers them better health and safety, improving the quality of care in their facilities.”

Manuel’s team offers providers a wide variety of assistance, including intervention services and contract employees who visit sites and help with children who have behavioral issues. Team members offer screenings and recommendations for providers, personal protective equipment (PPE), hearing and vision screenings for the children, and up to $50,000 in health and safety appliances. This can include new heating and air units, storm shelters, flooring, roofing, and more.

“We call each provider and ask them what they are in need of, and we offer services that fit their facilities and programs,” Manuel said.

Some providers may receive hazard pay if they were open during the COVID-19 pandemic. The grant can offer employee incentives to their workers who were at risk during the pandemic.

Manuel’s team also provides resources for training, as licensed providers need at least 20 hours of training each year. They offer $250 for training per employee and can also pay up to three months of operational costs, including payroll, utility bills, mortgage, insurance and more.

“I had one provider call that was licensed for 74 children, but staffing was so low that she could only have 30 kids at a time. This affects their bottom dollar. So, us providing three months of operational costs is very helpful for them,” Manuel said.

Funding is made available through the U.S. federal government’s American Rescue Plan.

To be eligible for this grant, providers must be within the boundaries of the Chickasaw Nation or have contracted with the Nation’s child care assistance program. Providers must also be state-licensed. Relative providers that are not state-licensed may be eligible for some portions of the grant. Each provider must be regulated and registered under tribal or state law and satisfy the tribal, state and local requirements, including health and safety requirements outlined in the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act (CCDBG). Center-based child care, group home child care, family child care or other providers of child care services for compensation may all apply for this grant.

Chickasaw Nation Family Assistance is responding to several issues that have come up for child care providers due to COVID-19.

“We changed our pay scale throughout our child care assistance program so that it is now based on enrollment, not attendance. This way they get paid even if the child is in quarantine,” Manuel said.

With the grant, a day care in Ardmore was able to expand its facilities recently by opening new classrooms and decreasing the waitlist.

“They sent us pictures of the before and after, and it is inspiring how transformative this grant proved to be for their facility,” Manuel said. “We go and see the facilities when they are updated, and even the children are so excited and eager to show us all of their new stuff. Their enthusiasm is so heartwarming.”

The department has a quality assurance person who ensures the funds are being spent the way they are intended.

“We are a new program, so we are learning together. We also must be good stewards of this money,” Manuel said. “We have a quality assurance person who is responsible for inspecting the facilities and making sure that the best services for them are being given, that the funds are being spent the way that they are intended to. This quality care aligns with our core values. We can hear the overwhelming gratitude in their voice on the phone when we tell providers the amount of funding they are eligible for. We are honored to spend this funding in this way.”

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