Gov. Roy Cooper visited Creative Academy Early Learning Center in Goldsboro to highlight a Department of Defense program that helps military families afford child care in North Carolina communities where they serve.
Cooper, who arrived at the child care center on Royall Avenue shortly after 10 a.m. March 21, was greeted by Creative Academy staff, Col. Lucas Teel, 4th Fighter Wing commander, and other Seymour Johnson Air Force Base leaders, as well as Councilwoman Brandi Matthews and Councilwoman Hiawatha Jones.
Kody Kinsley, secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, and Walter Gaskin, secretary of the N.C. Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, also spent time visiting with staff and children at the center Tuesday.
Cooper, Kinsley and Gaskin shared the importance of child care programs, especially for military families in helping them thrive in North Carolina cities and towns near military installations where they serve.
The Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood-PLUS program, which launched March 13 in North Carolina, offers military families easier access to affordable quality child care, Gaskin said. The program, which can provide a maximum benefit of $1,700 per month, is funded through the Department of Defense.
“Families that must use community child care programs, could save hundreds of dollars on quality care for their children with the maximum benefit reaching up to $1,700 per month, per child,” Gaskin said.
Gaskin said there are 294 child care providers participating in the program, even though there are 2,500 child care centers that are eligible to participate in 22 counties near major military installations in the state.
“This provides a significant opportunity to increase the number of centers and family child care homes that provide assistance and increases the number of quality care options for those families aboard the military installations,” Gaskin said.
Kinsley said investing in children in their younger years is vital to their future success.
“The evidence is clear,” Kinsley said. “When you invest in children at this age, not only are they healthier over their lifespan but they have better employment, they have higher paying jobs over the lifespan.”
Cooper said that access to child care is important not only to children, families, businesses and the economy but also to military families and ensure the mission ready focus of the armed forces.
“We know how important it is to make sure our active military that we pay attention to them along with the almost 800,000 veterans that we have in our state,” Cooper said. “But, you know, all of us here, nothing on Earth is more important to us than our children. The one thing we know, quality early childhood education helps them to succeed in life.
“And when we are trying to recruit people to come to the military and to serve our country having this kind of program in place that they know that they can take advantage of to be able to have quality child care for their children is yet another incentive that we can use to draw quality people.”
The Department of Defense and Child Care Aware of America launched the Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood-PLUS initiative in North Carolina, which provides financial assistance to help military families access and afford quality child care from community providers when on-base child care isn’t available, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
Licensed child care facilities, with a three-star or higher state rating, can participate in the program.
Teel said the program will benefit airmen assigned to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.
“We are excited to see the Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood-PLUS program make its impact in North Carolina, especially in the communities that support Seymour Johnson Air Force Base,” Teel said. “Child care is always one of the biggest challenges for military families, so we are thankful for the expansion of quality programs and the immediate effect it will have on readiness and the quality of life of our airmen and families.”
During the visit, Cooper said the proposed state budget focuses on child care funding, including $700 million that would go child care centers and child care subsidies.
“We are hopeful that the General Assembly will look hard at the budget that we’ve put forward,” Cooper said. “We’ve asked for about $700 million to help with child care efforts to keep the good quality teachers that we have to help these parents with the additional expense that we know that is important and to keep their doors open because we know that it matters for the quality of life for our families, for the success of our children, for the strength of our military and for our economy.”
Cooper’s recommended budget includes $1.5 billion in new funding for child care and early childhood education, including $500 million for child care stabilization grants and $200 million to increase child care subsidy rates in rural and lower-wealth communities, according to the governor’s office.
Cooper also visited a child care center in Greenville Tuesday and focused on the importance of child care investments and the state budget proposal.
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