Walsh announces grant program to boost affordable child care in Boston

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh announced the launch of a new plan Thursday to support home-based child care business owners and entrepreneurs in the city.

The Fund plans to grant $2,000 for child care startups, $4,000 for existing businesses and $10,000 for partnered businesses, giving special preference to minority-owned businesses and those in Boston Housing Authority units, according to a city press release. While resources this year are limited for the first round of funding, applicants are encouraged to reapply if they are initially rejected.

The Childcare Entrepreneur Fund Pilot was created in response to a shortage of affordable child care in the city. The survey administered by the city found that 86 percent of respondents considered childcare to be unaffordable and 45 percent cited insufficient childcare options in their neighborhood, according to the survey’s results released Thursday

A combination of low wages and the closing of nearly half of Boston’s home-based child care businesses since 2010 likely led to Massachusetts having some of the highest child care costs in the nation, according to the press release.

To encourage businesses to apply, the city will be hosting six workshops that will guide business owners through the grant application and give advice on budgeting and financial tracking, according to city’s Economic Mobility Lab website. The workshops are open to anyone interested, including those who were not accepted in the first round of applications.

Jason Ewos, director of the Economic Mobility Lab, said his team was motivated to provide business support because child care businesses didn’t receive much of it compared to other businesses.

“What we heard from providers was that they were great educators but that many of them either didn’t see themselves as business people or weren’t necessarily experts at running a business,” Ewos said.

Ewos said the program aims to encourage the creation of new home-based child care businesses while also providing the financial tools to help these businesses thrive financially and independently. The program also plans to partner with state organizations to connect child care providers with other helpful resources.

However, Ewos said Boston is not the only city affected by a shortage of affordable child care, and said this issue is indicative of a deeper problem across the nation.

“One of the major reasons [of lack of affordability] is that the society doesn’t see child care providers and especially family child care providers as entrepreneurs and I think it ties back to sort of that most societies systematically undervalue women’s work,” Ewos said. “And that comes through in the sort of general lack of business support services that are offered and the very low wages that they’re willing to accept.”

Ewos said the broader goal of the program is to call attention to the issue of child care.

“Ultimately they’re providing a vital service that’s frankly not going anywhere,” Ewos said. “Even when people talk about the future of work, any city that you look at will say that one of the types of work that will grow over the next 20 to 30 years virtually no matter what is care work.”

Cheryl Young, 59, of Woburn, has seen the costs of child care and said she was excited for the outcomes of the pilot.

“I have family members that have to pay for it. Sometimes it’s $400 to $500 a week,” Woburn said. “That’s a lot, so if they could get a grant or some money to at least help them, I think it would be beneficial because right now salaries aren’t what they used to be.”

Barbara Thorpe, 56, of Allston, said she has experience with foster care and supports the program.

“I’m involved in a lot of foster care with children from broken homes, children whose parents have passed away, children [who] would have been taken away from their parents by the courts,” Thorpe said, “So yeah, I’m all for it.”