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The latest news about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 in Montana.

$31 million in federal funding now available to help Montana childcare providers

The demand for statewide childcare services outstripped supply before the start of the global pandemic. COVID-19 exacerbated the problem. State officials hope a new pool of federal grant money will bolster the availability of childcare services.

The state health department Thursday announced the funding is now available through the American Rescue Plan Act. The $31 million can help registered and licensed childcare providers pay for rent, mortgage and utility costs, cover payroll and benefits, or be used to purchase cleaning or childcare supplies. Mental health support for children and providers can also be requested.

State department officials also hope the funding will entice more people to become licensed or registered daycare providers. As of early June there were a total of 916 such providers in Montana.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 171 programs have closed. Only 21 of them have since reopened. Sixty percent of Montana’s counties are classified as childcare deserts; areas where child care supply meets less than a third of estimated demand. Six counties don’t have a single licensed provider.

A call center is available to help interested providers complete the application process for the new federal funding.

For more information, visit or call 844-406-2772

O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the University of Montana School of Journalism. His first career job out of school was covering the 1995 Montana Legislature. When the session wrapped up, O’Brien was fortunate enough to land a full-time position at the station as a general assignment reporter. Feel free to drop him a line at