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Gov. Lujan Grisham announces free childcare for most NM families, pledges $10 million to expand childcare, and stipend program for childcare workers

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Gino Gutierrez
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KSFR News
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham speaks with children ahead of her press conference

Surrounded by child care educators, students and a few parents in attendance, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced family-focused initiatives eliminating costs of child care for most New Mexican families.

This will also increase capacity for child care services in areas lacking access and support for early childhood professionals.

“We have all of these incredible, passionate, educators and child care workers who are supporting our children. Providing them with a path to success and opportunity for their whole lives. We need parents to be able to afford to come to these world-class centers,” Lujan Grisham said.

The main part of this announcement is the expansion of free child care to qualifying families earning up to 400% of the federal poverty level, which is $111,000 for a family of four.

Beginning May 1, 2022, all families enrolled in the state’s Child Care Assistance Program will no longer owe copays for child care services, making child care cost-free.

Previously, only families at 200% FPL or below qualified for waived copayments.

The New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department (ECECD) estimates that over 30,000 families statewide will now qualify for free child care.

In addition to expanding no-cost child care to a majority of New Mexico families, Gov. Lujan Grisham also announced that the ECECD will dedicate $10 million dollars toward grants specifically designed to expand the availability of child care in communities where it is needed most.

This pilot round of supply-building grants will add capacity for up to 800 more children around the state.

Also announced on May 5, Early Childhood Educator Appreciation Day, Gov. Lujan Grisham will open applications for a new stipend program that pays up to $2,000 per semester to early childhood professionals who are currently enrolled in early childhood degree programs at one of New Mexico institutions of higher education.

ECECD’s current scholarship program, which provides financial support to students pursuing early childhood degrees, will transition into the stipend program.

Most of the 825 early childhood professionals who are currently enrolled in the scholarship program will benefit from the new stipend program moving forward.