Early childhood educators across Pitkin County receive staff support stipends
In mid-February, 89 early childhood educators received staff support stipend checks as part of a joint program between Pitkin County and the Aspen Community Foundation.
The Pitkin County commissioners joined staff from the county and Community Foundation in delivering the checks to teachers at licensed child care centers across the county — in Basalt, Snowmass Village, Woody Creek, the Aspen Airport Business Center and Aspen. The checks are the first in a set of stipends that will be distributed to teachers over three years.
The Early Childhood Staff Support Stipend program is meant to provide immediate, short-term support to child care teachers and staff working in a challenging local landscape. Child care centers struggle to remain competitive with other professions and the rising costs of housing make retaining and attracting teachers difficult, county officials said.
“Care for our youngest children — birth to 5 years of age — is a critical component of our community’s social infrastructure. The attraction and retention of staff in our county child care facilities is currently the most threatened piece of the system. This stipend is intended to stabilize the system and support critical child care providers in our community,” said Francie Jacober, chair of the Pitkin County Board of County Commissioners.
The county commissioners agreed to spend $1,575,000 of federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars to find solutions to the area’s child-care crisis, starting with the stipend program and possibly expanding to fund other support measures. The stipend program provides $6,000 total to each full time staff member of a licensed child care center within the county in the years 2023 and 2024 — paid out quarterly. The Aspen Community Foundation is administering the program. Additional dollars may be available in 2025, depending on funding availability.
The funding is temporary and intended to provide short-term relief. Realizing the stipend program will not alleviate all of the hurdles child care providers are experiencing, county staff is continuing to analyze and research the possibility of using county funding to support additional challenges that have been identified such as families struggling to pay the cost of care, officials said.
The county received a total of $3,451,031 in the federal funding. Besides child care, the dollars will go toward community housing initiatives. The two priorities — child care and housing — were pinpointed by commissioners last fall as urgent needs in the community that also align with the relief fund’s guidelines.
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