FILE - Kindergarten, child care

(The Center Square) – North Carolina has made an additional $35 million in grants available to child care providers to offset costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Roy Cooper announced Tuesday.

Cooper said the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) would release the grants to help child care centers with operational costs and safety precautions.

"Our child care programs have been on the frontlines since the start of this pandemic, keeping their doors open so other workers could keep our economy running and the public safe," Cooper said. "A strong and safe child care system is essential to our recovery."

Child care centers have to abide by public health guidelines meant to help limit the spread of COVID-19. Staff members must perform daily health screenings and increase hygiene and cleaning practices. The new routines mean providers have to invest in personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies. Some child care programs also faced significant enrollment shortages, leading to financial loss.

NCDHHS said it issued more than $80 million in monthly operational grants for child care programs that served over 105,000 children statewide from April through July. The new grants will be made available to child care providers operating in-person from August through October.

All eligible licensed child care programs will receive some level of operational grants, Cooper's office said. The grant disbursements are based on program size, quality and whether the program serves infants and toddlers.

NCDHHS also granted child care teacher and staff bonuses in April and May and issued emergency subsidies in April and May.

"Our response and recovery are dependent upon having a strong, high-quality child care system open and available. These operational grants help families go to work and children's learning to be nurtured," NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen said.

Staff Reporter

Nyamekye Daniel has been a journalist for four years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel's work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times.