The Department of Commerce’s Early Learning Facilities (ELF) Grant Program, first created in 2017 under Substitute House Bill 1777, is designed to assist Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) contractors and Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) providers to expand, remodel, purchase, or construct early learning facilities and classrooms necessary to support early learning opportunities for children from low-income households.
ELF funding is open to nonprofits, public entities, K-12 schools and districts, tribes, and for-profit businesses. The type of eligible applicant depends on the requirements of the funding round being released. The ELF program consists of four funding opportunities:
- Competitive grants to eligible organizations
- In April 2022, this funded the acquisition, renovation, planning, and new construction of 69 high-quality early learning facilities across 22 counties
- Competitive grants to K-12 school districts
- The application period closed July 20, 2022, with seven applications submitted to Commerce for consideration
- Direct appropriations from the Legislature
- A grant and loan program
- In May 2022, the application period closed for the Minor Renovation or Repair of Existing Early Learning Facilities Grant, with 946 applicants requesting $169 million in project expenses of $27 million available to award
To assist providers with the ELF program, DCYF established a new Pre-Licensing Unit under DCYF Child Care Licensing that:
- Supports ELF grant recipients with technical assistance to prepare for application and successful licensure
- Helps child care providers successfully navigate the facility development and licensing processes
- Supports the Department of Commerce’s ELF team by assessing licensing-related questions on each application
- Develops technical assistance resources for potential child care providers
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