OKLAHOMA CITY (Oct. 5, 2020) – Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), Eric Hargan, announced new flexibilities for States in the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) block grant program after visiting two community HOPE centers. Hargan was joined by Assistant Secretary of HHS’s Administration for Children and Families, Lynn Johnson, whose agency administers the CCDF federal block grant.
“We applaud the work of Oklahoma in creatively addressing the needs of children and families who need support, especially where in-person school is not available,” said Hargan. “The flexibilities we’re offering from HHS will help Oklahoma, and States nationwide, to continue pioneering new ways of ensuring that the needs of low-income children and families are still prioritized when schools are closed to in-person instruction.”
Launched on Aug. 3 by Gov. Kevin Stitt and Secretary of Human Services and Early Childhood Initiatives Justin Brown, Community HOPE Centers have utilized $15 million in CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) to fund operations to date.
Community HOPE Centers utilize partnerships to provide resources in response to COVID-19 to children ages 5 through 18 to support their learning, as well as meet their social and emotional needs, using the science of HOPE as their foundation. The locations of the centers have been prioritized in areas of highest need, focusing first where full-time, in-person school is not available, allowing children’s educational needs to be met while parents work. Each center utilizes mental health professionals, OKDHS social services staff, virtual learning tools such as computers and iPads, meals and snacks, enrichment activities and other programming available to support families. Oklahoma is the first state in the nation to launch such a model.
“Helping children thrive and families achieve their fullest potential in this difficult time is our top priority,” said Assistant Secretary Johnson. “We are inspired by Oklahoma’s work, and want to give them and other states all tools available to continue innovation.”
CCDF subsidizes the cost of childcare for low-income working families, for children under age 13. In FY2020, CCDF funding to states totaled $8.7 billion, as well as an additional $3.5 billion in CARES Act funds.
There are currently 27 Community HOPE Centers operational today with a capacity to serve 1,689 children. Eighteen additional sites have submitted initial paperwork for consideration to become a Community HOPE Center.
“We know virtual learning has a disproportionately negative effect on children based on their socioeconomic status,” said Gov. Kevin Stitt. “Community HOPE Centers are one way Oklahoma is leading the nation in bridging the education gaps caused by COVID-19. Additionally, these centers will continue offering important services for Oklahoma families long after students return to their in-person classrooms.”
“The Community HOPE Center model pairs innovative solutions and community partnerships together to combat learning loss, poverty, childhood trauma, hunger, homelessness and isolation in Oklahoma communities,” said Secretary Brown. “We believe this model can be duplicated in states across the country to ensure families thrive. OKDHS is thankful to HHS CCDF flexibilities that give Oklahoma, and all states, a new set of tools to use federal funds creatively to sustain this work for children and families affected by school closures and other disruptions.”
Deputy Secretary Hargan and Assistant Secretary Johnson toured Community HOPE Center sites at the Urban League and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Oklahoma County during today’s visit to the state. They were joined on the tours by Governor and First Lady Stitt, State Superintendent of Public Education Joy Hofmeister and Secretary Brown.
“Many families are struggling to meet the needs of their children’s virtual or distance learning while juggling work responsibilities,” said Superintendent Hofmeister. “HOPE Centers provide a safe and nurturing place for students and much-needed flexibility for families. We are proud that Oklahoma can be a leader in providing innovative solutions like Community HOPE Centers.”
Community HOPE Centers align with allowable activities within the Title IV, Part B – Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Center competitive grant program. These programs provide academic and other well-rounded activities to students before and after school. The state intends to seek a waiver in order to give Oklahoma the ability to permit a current 21st CCLC grantee to operate during normal school hours after CARES Act funding expires in December, in order to give flexibility to districts and schools, including some Community HOPE Center sites to provide academic enrichment and other well-rounded education activities.
To access B-Roll from today's visit, click here.