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BATON ROUGE – The Louisiana Department of Children & Family Services has awarded $10 million in federal grants to nine child-care providers in South Louisiana to help rebuild an industry in regions still reeling from hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
The Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) supplemental funding is dedicated to the rebuilding, construction or purchase of Class A child-care facilities in the eight parishes identified as particularly hard-hit: Calcasieu, Cameron, Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany and Washington.
Nine facilities in three parishes will receive the following grant amounts:
Children’s Palace Learning Academy, 5611 Read Blvd., New Orleans ($818,034)
Sentino Early Childhood Academy, 10080 Morrison Road, New Orleans ($992,632)
Jump Start Development Center, 7700 Lake Forest Blvd., New Orleans ($214,182)
Tadpole Academy, 7034 Read Lane, New Orleans ($417,094)
Wilcox Academy, 1678 North Broad St., New Orleans ($408,471)
St. Tammany Parish
Little Red School House, 304 East 32nd Ave., Covington ($400,037)
Kidz Karousel, La. Highway 1088, ($2,198,639)
Angel Babies Child Care & Development Center, 430 East Miller Ave., Iowa ($1,184,076)
Kidz Kuntry Child Care & Learning Center, 203 Center East Miller Ave., Iowa ($1,742,397)
The funds are earmarked for child-care facilities that serve families in DSS’ Child Care Assistance Program, which helps low-income families pay for child care while working, seeking work or attending school and training.
DSS Interim Secretary Kristy Nichols said, “It is extremely important that our families have access to quality child care. Restoring child-care services in these parishes has a critical impact on families and on the recovery of the gulf region as a whole, by allowing more families the option of returning to work and strengthening our state’s economy.”
Prior to Hurricane Katrina, more than 2,000 child-care centers were operating in Louisiana, but after the storm, 908 facilities were taken offline – leaving approximately 1,100 centers available to families. Today, 1, 839 centers are operating statewide, reflecting 85 percent of the pre-hurricane capacity.
Nichols said DSS formed the child-care rebuilding guidelines in conjunction with the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency (LHFA).
“We chose LHFA as our partner due to its ability to employ a variety of resources, systems and styles in making this rebuilding effort successful,” Nichols said. “Using various funding streams, the agency has a solid history of constructing diverse building projects for single family homes and large housing complexes,” Nichols said.
Drawing on its experience in working with developers, LHFA put together guidelines and an application to solicit proposals, and then developed a scoring mechanism to ensure the most worthy projects were selected. Now that grants are being awarded, LHFA will provide oversight of construction.
LHFA President Milton Bailey said, “This is a great example of two state agencies combining their expertise for the benefit of the people of this state.”
To be eligible, applicants were required to be situated in a designated parish and meet all state, parish and local regulations, with preference given to centers located in areas of greatest need. Applicants also were asked to show quality and cost-effective construction plans from licensed contractors and architects. In addition, applicants were required to demonstrate an ability to complete projects with funds other than those provided by the SSBG.
Grant proceeds may be used only to acquire a site; purchase, renovate or construct a Class A child care center; and purchase capital items including equipment and furnishings necessary to operating a Class A center.