The Washington State Department of Commerce has awarded 16 grants totaling $1.36 million to nonprofits, local governments, and educational service districts to develop community-based plans for expanding child care capacity.

Grantees will receive 50 percent of the award from state general funds administered by the department and a 50 percent match from the Safe Start Fund for a Healthy Economic Transition and Recovery. The department established the Safe Start Fund in partnership with Seattle Foundation to support economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Access to affordable, quality child care is an imperative for our state’s economic recovery. Thousands of parents in Washington were either paying more than they could afford or struggling to find quality child care facilities and programs near where they live or work before COVID-19,” stated department director Lisa Brown, citing data from a recently-released child care industry assessment study that showed one out of five parents turned down a job offer or promotion because of child care issues.

The first round of community partnership grants will fund projects through June 30, 2021 in Clark, Cowlitz, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Island, King, Klickitat, Pend Oreille, King, Snohomish, Spokane, Stevens, Thurston, and Whatcom counties. A second round of grant applications opened Aug. 17 and closed Sept. 11, 2020.