The pandemic wiped out part of Massachusetts’ child care workforce.

Now Boston is trying to rebuild.

And the scale of this challenge is substantial.

“The childcare industry in Massachusetts lost about 10% of its workforce since the start of the pandemic,” WBUR radio reports. “In Boston, that’s translating into long wait lists and shorter hours of care. According to city officials, about 50 early education classrooms are sitting empty because child care centers can’t find enough people to operate at capacity.”

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu “was quick to point out that the estimate doesn’t include centers that have had to cut hours because they’re short staffed.”

To address this daunting gap, the city is using $7 million from the Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan Act to launch the Growing the Workforce Fund.

The fund will provide scholarships and financial aid to 800 students who want to earn a Child Development Associate (CDA) or an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in early childhood education.

“Today’s investment is a welcome one for early educators like me,” Lisa Brooks, an early educator at Horizons for Homeless Children, says in a city press release. “Relieving the burden of debt associated with higher education will help educators continue to focus on the important work of building the foundation for our students’ future success.”

Mayor Wu tells WBUR, “This will both ensure that graduates have an opportunity to put their skills to use in the field, and help stabilize the early childhood sector in our city right now.”

Participants in this promising program will have access to mentors and internship stipends, and they will have a guaranteed job once they graduate. They will also be “required to work as an early educator in Boston for a minimum two to three years.”

The four institutions that received the grant funds are:

• Bunker Hill Community College

• Urban College of Boston

• University of Massachusetts Boston, and

• Neighborhood Villages

These programs will cover the costs of tuition, books, and supplies, and they will provide childcare and transportation as well as other forms of necessary financial assistance.

U.S. Representative Katherine Clark, a supporter of this effort, said in the city’s press release, “I was proud to lead the call for child care relief funding as part of the American Rescue Plan, and I am thrilled to see these dollars making a real difference at home. Investing in early educators, kids, and families is central to building an economy that leaves no one behind.”

U.S. Senator Edward Markey said, “This is another important step towards showing our child care providers that we value their work, and showing our parents our support for their families.”

And U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren added, “Child care is critical infrastructure and its quality and affordable child care that makes all other parts of our economy possible.” 

Boston City Councilor Kenzie Bok, looks to the future, saying, “This means a huge infusion of well-trained workers into our local childcare ecosystem, and will help us build better pathways for years to come.”

Please help build this future by sharing this information with your professional networks. Rebuilding the workforce is a crucial way to help children, families, the economy, and the city all thrive.