Olivia Vanni / Herald file
Children wait for breakfast at Tomorrow’s Hope Child Development Center in Everett in November 2022.

Olivia Vanni / Herald file Children wait for breakfast at Tomorrow’s Hope Child Development Center in Everett in November 2022.

Child care, mental health set for $2M in federal funding from Everett

Cost increases and shuttering child care centers prompted the city to dedicate ARPA funds to addressing the problem.

EVERETT — Child care and mental health treatment could get over $2 million from Everett’s federal COVID recovery money.

The Everett City Council on Wednesday considered the proposed funding that would support a new child development center, an early learning center’s administration and a mental health facility’s construction.

Most of the city’s $20.7 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, has been allocated for gun buyback programs, public bathrooms, temporary shelters, social workers and other programs and projects.

Mayor Cassie Franklin made accessibility to child care and early education part of her campaign in 2021. Both were featured in her administration’s proposed ARPA spending plan that year and the city budget this year. The goal was to support parents entering or returning to work once child care becomes available.

The cost and the scarcity of spots at child learning centers prompted the city’s push.

One report estimated the average cost of enrollment in a child care facility in the state at $14,355 a year, according to KING5. That kind of expense can push one parent out of the workforce to stay home and provide child care.

Katie, 3, gives a hug to one of her teachers at Tomorrow’s Hope Child Development Center on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

Katie, 3, gives a hug to one of her teachers at Tomorrow’s Hope Child Development Center on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / Herald file)

An estimated 150 providers in Snohomish County and more across the state shuttered during the pandemic, with some workers taking better pay and other facilities closing after cost increases.

Child Care Aware of Washington, a state-funded organization focused on child care and early learning access, reported a need for between 9,600 and 13,000 spots in Snohomish County.

Low-cost and free tuition preschool was one of the proposed expenses in the mayor’s proposal.

The city celebrated a deal to bring tuition-free preschool for 60 students at the Bezos Academy, which opened in March. It has a long-term lease at Everett Station that doesn’t require the school to pay rent in exchange for the service and covering expenses incurred to convert the space into a preschool.

Now, Everett can use $1 million of federal money for the proposed new Tomorrow’s Hope Child Development Center, a part of Housing Hope. Currently the program operates in a building that housed a Sizzler and a Chinese restaurant along Evergreen Way with room for about 130 children.

But Housing Hope plans to build a new, larger facility in Everett with room for 230 children. Similar to the program now, it also is envisioned to host a child care training program and more services for the students and their families such as laundry, showers, a dedicated nurse and health care room, and space for other organizations to meet with families.

“At every level, it’s going to be a quality program,” Housing Hope CEO Donna Moulton said.

Anyone can apply to enroll their child at Tomorrow’s Hope, which isn’t only reserved for Housing Hope residents and clients. Its tuition ranges from $726 for school-age children up to 12 during the school year to $1,980 for infants.

Everett Community College’s Early Learning Center is set for $150,000 from the city. That money funds one year of administrative operations at the program licensed for up to 120 children.

Riley, 7, and Harmony, 1, sit down for snack time at Tomorrow’s Hope Child Development Center on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Riley, 7, and Harmony, 1, sit down for snack time at Tomorrow’s Hope Child Development Center on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

The Early Learning Center was nearly shuttered by a former college president in 2021. At the time, the program was licensed for up to 120 children and normally had around 100 enrolled, but staffing and the pandemic had shrunk its actual enrollment.

The county stepped in and pledged to cover its funding for over a decade. A mix of money from the county and state balanced the budget this school year, Everett Community College Vice President of Finance Shelby Burke wrote in an email.

There were 70 children enrolled in the college’s spring quarter that ended in June. That dropped to 40 this summer quarter, which is typical, Early Learning Center director Rachelle Refling wrote in an email. There’s a waiting list for the fall quarter that starts in September.

“We are prioritizing serving more students as we expand our service models and provide more flexible options for care,” Refling wrote.

Everett’s efforts should further bolster the child care offerings after Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers in early July announced $7.6 million to fund 360 new child care slots at six organizations. Tomorrow’s Hope is set for $1 million from the county.

Another $1 million from the city is marked for the capital drive to redevelop another portion of Compass Health’s campus on Broadway. Once that’s funded and built, it is planned to have a mental health evaluation and treatment center with 16 beds and a triage center with 16 beds.

The City Council is scheduled to vote on the three proposed ARPA spending projects at its meeting Aug. 2.

Ben Watanabe: 425-339-3037; bwatanabe@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @benwatanabe.

Correction: An earlier version misstated the number of beds in the triage center of the next phase of Compass Health’s Broadway redevelopment. There are 16 planned.

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