Erie County is putting $25 million into emergency child care. The money will pay for regular child care and new virtual learning centers.
Part of the purpose of the dollars is to keep childcare centers open or to reopen some that closed because their parents had lost their jobs and were home with their kids. Included in the money is $11 million for the virtual centers across the county, working with BOCES and school districts.
County Executive Mark Poloncarz described this new idea.
"Location where the parents are at work, where the students are somewhere other than home," he said. "Yeah, there will be individuals there supervising them. There will be individuals there helping them, making certain that they are taking their virtual classes, assisting them. So this is not like it's gonna happen in somebody's house. It's going to happen in a location and it could be a school. It could be a community center, could be a library."
This means parents will not be leaving their children at home alone, so they can go to work or return to work as schools start up. Poloncarz said the funding will be available through Dec. 30, when the CARES Act expires. Grant applications are due Sept. 14 and the selections will be announced on Sept. 21.
County Legislator Lisa Chimera is a parent and Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda teacher.
"Just yesterday, a parent of a sixth grader called me in tears," Chimera said. "'I have to make a decision. Do I quite my job and stay home to support my child in remote learning or do I continue to work and provide for my family?' No parent should have to make that decision."
County officials said they want to see learning centers open across the area within weeks.
Deputy County Executive Maria Whyte said these are essential alternatives.
"A lot of work remains to be done in this program, however, doing nothing and leaving vulnerable children at home alone in charge of their own education and, in some cases, in charge of their younger sibling's education while working parents try to provide for their families, is simply not an option," she said.