How to Use the North Carolina Early Care Expansion & Access Grant

North Carolina is getting a big boost in pre-K spending! As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the North Carolina General Assembly presented the North Carolina Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) with $20 Million in grant funding. These funds will focus on improving the quality of programs and increasing access to quality child care for families in North Carolina.   

Grantees will receive a one-time payment of up to $125,000 to spend on projects and classroom materials that improve the quality of early education a facility provides in their community. Award amounts are subject to change depending on the budget of your proposed project and facility needs. All grant funded projects and improvements must be completed no later than December 31, 2024.  

If you are one of the lucky grantees, congratulations! With this new grant funding opportunity, you may be brimming with questions because you want to make the best investment possible with your grant dollars. Are there any guidelines or restrictions on how you can spend your grant funding? Do the projects and materials you plan to fund with this grant fit your immediate and future needs? Will you need to report your spending before starting or completing significant projects? 

With decades of experience in early childhood education, Kaplan is here to answer those questions so that you can provide children with the educational foundation they need, and provide families with a support system they can trust.

What Is the North Carolina Early Care and Learning Expansion & Access Grant?

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, North Carolina saw a reduction in licensed child care facilities and a noticeable decrease in child enrollment. Realizing this drastic change, the NC General Assembly provided $20 Million in grant funding to help North Carolina early education professionals improve the quality of their programs and build up the child care supply in low-performing and/or high-poverty districts.  

As a recipient of this award, you can expect a one-time grant payment of up to $125,000 to put toward projects and materials for your facility.

What Types of Projects Are Eligible Through the North Carolina Early Care and Learning Expansion & Access Grant?

All projects should support improvements and access to quality child care in North Carolina communities, especially those from low-performing and/or high-poverty districts. Allowed uses of your grant funding include:

  • Start-up costs: This includes the costs associated with opening a new facility, home-based child care facility, or NC Pre-K program. 
  • Quality improvements: This includes any materials or additions to your facility that would improve your star rating and the quality of education you provide young children.
  • Capital improvements or renovations: This includes adding new materials or upgrading your classrooms and outdoor play areas to increase your facility's capacity. 

You can only use your funding for start-up projects if you do not have a North Carolina child care license. You can choose from any of the above project options if you have a licensed child care facility. This also includes funding start-up costs for a second or subsequent facility you wish to open.

What Can I Purchase With the North Carolina Early Care and Learning Expansion & Access Grant?

This grant is for new projects and initiatives that will help child care facilities and home-based child care centers improve the quality of their programs. Some examples of approved projects and materials include:

  • Removing walls or expanding the structure of your facility to increase the size of your classrooms and the number of children you can enroll at one time
  • Updating or adding fencing around your outdoor play spaces to keep children safe and secure while outdoors
  • Upgrading your outdoor play equipment to make it more accessible and inclusive for the children in your care
  • Purchasing a new curriculum to enhance the educational experiences in each of your classrooms
  • Furnishing a new preschool classroom with high-quality tables and chairs
  • Renovation projects that improve the health and safety of your facility

The North Carolina Early Care and Learning Expansion & Access Grant is inappropriate for covering the costs of personal home renovations, purchasing land, paying a home or business mortgage, or covering the cost of day-to-day operations at your facility. 

Contact a North Carolina territory rep if you need help ordering items that meet the Early Care and Learning Expansion & Access Grant guidelines.  We are happy to help with a custom quote that meets your proposed project specifications.

When Will I Receive Grant Funding, and How Long Will I Have to Spend It?

If you will receive grant funding and currently have direct deposit set up through the NC DCDEE, that is how you will receive your payout. If you are not a licensed facility and plan to use your grant funding for start-up costs, you will receive your payment by paper check or another delivery method.

Anyone receiving the North Carolina Early Care and Learning Expansion & Access Grant will need to meet the following criteria before the spending deadline of December 31, 2024:

  • You must receive licensure through the NC DCDEE
  • Your projects must be complete 
  • Your facility must be open and ready to accept children

Will I Need to Report My Grant Spending?

Yes! The NC DCDEE has a monitoring process to follow when reporting your funds. You must submit periodic updates about how your projects are progressing, how you use your funds, and the amount of funding remaining in your account. This reporting process will not begin until sometime at the end of 2023. Once reporting begins, you will need to provide a report to the NC DCDEE every six months.

Where Can I Shop for Eligible Items and Materials?

With your North Carolina Early Care and Learning Expansion & Access Grant funding now available, it is time to get to work on projects that improve the quality and capacity of your child care facility. 

With Kaplan, you can make this process easier by speaking with a North Carolina territory rep who is up-to-date on all information regarding the North Carolina Early Care and Learning Expansion & Access Grant. They will help you choose the best materials for your projects and help you provide a quality educational experience for the children in your care. To connect with a North Carolina territory rep, click here

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