Back to News

Endowments announces major public-private child care initiative

PITTSBURGH, Pa., May 21, 2020 –The Heinz Endowments has announced a new public-private partnership with major funding to help strengthen the region’s child care sector in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. 

The Endowments has awarded a grant of $200,000 to child advocacy organization, Trying Together, to underwrite critically-needed grants to child care providers affected by the pandemic, and fund a new digital platform that provides families real-time information about child care centers.

This combines with funding of $300,000 from the multi-foundation-supported Emergency Action Fund -- created with contributions from Hillman Family Foundations, the Richard King Mellon Foundation, The Pittsburgh Foundation, and the Endowments -- to help address urgent needs resulting from the COVID-19 crisis.

The child care initiative will be managed by Trying Together in partnership with the Allegheny County Department of Human Services, with additional support from the City of Pittsburgh, and was developed in collaboration also with Childcare Aware of America, the Endowments and technology partners Bowtie, BrightHive and BridgeCare.

              The combined $500,000 in funding will allow Allegheny County’s Early Childhood Education Fund to make emergency grants totaling approximately $400,000 directly to early child care providers and education caregivers. The grants will range from $500 to $2,500, and will be distributed by early July. Additional resources have helped fund a new digital platform incorporating an easy-to-use database of available child care support in Allegheny County.

            “As we continue to move this community forward to a new ‘normal,’ it’s absolutely imperative that those employees who are able to return to work can have the support that they need for the care of their children,” said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “This funding and initiative will give those residents some relief in being able to find available child care and a confidence that their children are being well cared for during this pandemic. We are grateful for the support of our foundation community in this effort, as well as so many others during this challenging time for our community.”

             Hardship in the region’s child care sector became clear as the COVID-19 pandemic forced most non-home-based child care facilities to close in compliance with state-mandated shutdown orders, leaving many uncertain about their post-pandemic future. For workers deemed “essential,” securing child care during the crisis has posed added stress and insecurity.

The Endowments $200,000 funding support for the child care initiative is part of a $600,000 grant to Trying Together, approved by the foundation’s Board. “The lack of access to dependable, quality child care has been a critical issue during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for those dedicated individuals working in essential services,” said Endowments President Grant Oliphant. “The strengths, expertise and experience of our community working together have fast-tracked the development of a resource designed to help working families during this crisis and beyond, and I am proud and delighted that the Endowments has been able to play its part.”

The new digital platform, called Allegheny Child Care, is now available, enabling users to search for operating child care centers in real time, and easily identify centers with open spaces for children. Both home and center-based child care businesses are searchable with the new digital platform.

Support in using the Allegheny Child Care digital tool, as well as opportunities for logistical and financial assistance, is available at the Early Learning Resource Center Region 5 website. The digital tool was developed to support the child care needs of all Allegheny County families during the COVID-19 crisis and in the years to come.

            Michelle Figlar, Vice President of Learning at The Heinz Endowments, co-chaired Allegheny County’s early learning and out of school time working group throughout 2019, resulting in the submission of a set of recommendations to the county.

              “COVID-19 has made clear that quality child care is vital not only to the security of families and the cognitive and social development of our young children, but also to the overall strength of our region,” she said. “The public-private nature of the new digital tool pilot program is especially exciting, bringing nonprofits, foundations, the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County together to strengthen our child care sector during the COVID-19 crisis and in the future.”             

              Through a waiver process provided by the state-supported Office of Child Development and Early Learning, child care centers and home-based child care businesses that received waivers were able to operate with an exemption during the statewide closure period. Part-day, school-age programs that obtained waivers from the Department of Community and Economic Development were also able to be open during this time.

              "Child care needs for families are varied, and may change at any time,” said Cara Ciminillo, Executive Director of Trying Together. "While this has always been true, COVID-19 created a situation where many early learning programs had to close abruptly or drastically adjust their operations. This left many families – including many ‘essential’ workers - without continued care and education for their young children."

            In the short-term, the Allegheny Child Care digital platform will support any changing child care capacity concerns throughout the COVID-19 closures and beyond. As stay-at-home orders are lifted and transitions are made to face-to-face interactions again, future plans may include expansion with features that support the child care needs of all families, early care and education professionals, early learning resource and referral organizations, and early learning specialist referrals.

              “Investing in early care and education professionals and programs so parents and caregivers who are essential workers can continue to do so during the current pandemic has been a critical need since day one,” said Lynette M. Fraga, Ph.D., Executive Director of Child Care Aware of America. “With partners like the Allegheny County Department of Human Services, Trying Together, and the philanthropic community, that need in Western Pennsylvania is being faced head-on through this public-private partnership model.”



For information contact:

Scott Roller
The Heinz Endowments

412- 338-2619 /