A group of local child care providers broke into applause at Thursday’s meeting of the city’s Board of Aldermen after the Frederick Community Action Agency received approval to move forward with sponsorship of the countywide Child and Adult Care Food Program.
“This was sort of the icing on the cake a bit,” FCAA Director Mike Spurrier said of the board’s unanimous approval to support the sponsorship.
“There were a few things we needed to clarify, but we wanted to get the resolution tonight, with the budget amendment, to make sure FCAA can absorb the revenues and expenditures,” he continued.
“The goal is to be able to have things and up and running by March 1.”
The Child and Adult Care Food Program is a Maryland State Department of Education program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The program reimburses child care centers, adult day care centers, family child care homes and after-school programs for providing nutritious food and teaching about healthy eating, according to the program’s website. Providers are required to complete training and submit meal plans with local sponsors to receive the funding.
The Frederick County Department of Social Services ended its sponsorship of the program in December after decades of involvement. The decision came as a shock to local providers who were left scrambling to make up the lost reimbursement income, which in some cases came to hundreds of dollars a month.
“We have been trying to make it work, but it’s been really difficult,” said Lisa Bowman, who offers day care from her home in Lake Linganore.
She said the news that FCAA would take over the program with a projected March 1 start date brought “tears to her eyes” on Thursday.
“This is amazing,” she said.
Spurrier also said that he is working on trying to get the state to reimburse funds from the time the Department of Social Services dropped its sponsorship.
“I am working on getting retroactive payments for at least February, maybe January,” he said.
Spurrier said FCAA submitted a preliminary application in late January to take over as the sponsor and followed up with an official application last Friday. After obtaining the board’s approval of the resolution of support on Thursday — which aldermen Ben MacShane and Derek Shackelford facilitated — Spurrier said the final step is approval of a budget amendment.
Through the agreement, the city will serve as a pass-through for the state grant funds. No local taxpayer money or staff time will go toward FCAA to sponsor the program. According to the staff report for the request, grant revenue and expenditures will increase by more than $1 million annually for meal reimbursement and administration of the program within the FCAA’s departmental budget.
Before voting on Thursday, the aldermen commended Spurrier for stepping up and taking the reins on sponsoring the program through the FCAA.
MacShane, who has consistently voiced support for more affordable and accessible child care for city residents, said it was an easy decision to push for the approval of the resolution.
“As I’ve mentioned a thousand times, expanding access to affordable child care is a priority of mine. It’s something that needs addressing,” he said after Thursday’s meeting. “When I found out at the end of December that this fiasco was emerging around the assistance of the Child and Adult Care Food Program to local child care providers, I was convinced we had to find a solution as fast as possible.”
The Child and Adult Care Food Program had an average of 220 providers and reimbursed more than $890,000 between July 2016 and June 2017, according to a DSS annual report.
Patty Morison, Child Care Choices director at the Mental Health Association of Frederick County, also spoke at Thursday’s hearing. She pointed out that the county has a total of 195 child care providers, 25 percent of whom are in the city of Frederick.
“That’s 400 to 450 children just in the city,” she said.
She said in an earlier email that the program received more than $800,000 countywide in 2018.
Staff writer Wyatt Massey contributed to this report.