LIIF’s Testimony to the DC City Council Committee on Education

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In February 2019, Laura Jackman testified on behalf of LIIF to the DC City Council Committee on Education. She shared takeaways from LIIF’s work to increase early care and education slots for DC’s children alongside the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. Below is a transcript of her testimony.

My name is Laura Jackman, and I am the Program Manager of the DC Access to Quality Child Care Expansion grant program (A2Q) at the Low Income Investment Fund (LIIF).  In 2018, LIIF received $9MIL from Mayor Bowser, through the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), to increase the supply of childcare by 1,000 new infant/toddler slots by September 2020.  I am here to offer testimony on the grant program and our experience working in partnership with OSSE.

Through the A2Q, LIIF awards grants for DC childcare facilities projects and provides direct technical assistance to childcare providers.  To date, LIIF has:

  • Worked with over 100 childcare providers in DC
  • Awarded 16 grants totaling approximately $2.2MIL
  • Created 409 new infant/toddler slots
  • Utilized 27% of the grant fund to create 40% of the target slot count

We have been efficient with the funding, and we maintain a robust pipeline of projects at varying stages of readiness.  Given the complex nature of facilities projects, the competitive real estate landscape in DC, and the demands of running existing childcare programs, providers require significant support to develop feasible plans for expansion.  In order to build and maintain the pipeline, LIIF engages with providers from the very beginning, and works with them through the application process in many ways, including:

  • Site identification
  • Site evaluation
  • Project feasibility
  • Commercial lease navigation
  • Coordination with city agencies
  • Developing project budgets
  • Sourcing additional funding
  • Business planning
  • Developing projected operating budgets

Despite the complexity, LIIF continues to maintain a pipeline of over 25 projects with the potential to create over 700 addition infant/toddler slots.  New programs enter the pipeline every month.

Recently, LIIF awarded a grant to a new child development center in Ward 4 that will serve 88 infants and toddlers, approximately 90% of which are slots reserved for families paying with vouchers.  The project entered our pipeline in April and required support negotiating their lease, developing their funding sources to align with the timeline of their project, working with District Department of Transportation (DDOT) to find solutions for pickup and drop off at the location, and working with their architect to develop a feasible design plan.  In the end, this project was able leverage over $500,000 in additional funding for their project, along with a $330,000 grant from LIIF.

The A2Q grant funding has allowed one grantee to provide a new model of childcare and co-working space in a retail corridor of Ward 3.  This innovative program, will provide both part-time and full-time care, in addition to co-working office space, giving working parents even more options.  Through the grant application process, LIIF connected this provider to the Child Care Subsidy Program at OSSE, resulting in the provider planning to accept vouchers for low-income families.

LIIF is also proud to have provided a grant to Bright Beginnings, enabling them to reduce significantly the gap in their fundraising goal for their new facility in Ward 8.  As the one of the largest providers of childcare and services to children and families experiencing homelessness, their new, state-of-the-art facility will allow them to meet the needs of their community while also realizing the benefits of high quality environments on early learning- environments that all children deserve.

Given that the technical assistance and review processes for these grants is time and resource intensive, we continue to look for ways to create more efficiencies to sustain the program’s goals.  Pivotal to the program has been LIIF’s collaboration with OSSE- both their grants team and the Licensing team, in particular- and the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA).  Our grantees report positive experiences with DCRA and the OSSE Licensing team, and have benefited from strong direct customer service and expedited processes from both groups.  Furthermore, LIIF’s success in providing technical assistance to providers on facilities projects is bolstered by strong collaboration with OSSE and DCRA.  Specifically, LIIF maintains a weekly check-in call with OSSE and DCRA to discuss projects, and often performs site visits to new prospective childcare locations alongside DCRA.  In October of last year, DCRA, OSSE, LIIF and the Shared Services Business Alliance conducted a joint training for child development home providers to learn more about the A2Q grant and expanding their home programs.  The event was a success, with over 30 child development home providers attending.

LIIF has also coordinated with the Early Learning Quality Fund (ELQF), a grant program of the Bainum Family Foundation, to collaborate on shared projects in Wards 7 and 8.  Because of this collaboration, A2Q grantees are able to leverage ELQF funding (and vice versa) resulting in a greater impact in these under-resourced communities.

LIIF continues to build partnerships with city agencies and groups that support childcare providers.  For example, the Board of Zoning Adjustment, Department of Parks and Recreation, Department of General Services, District Department of Transportation, and the Department of Housing and Community Development have all learned of our grant program through different projects throughout the city.  Additionally, LIIF has created partnerships with many local organizations that support childcare in varied ways, such as DC Main Streets, City Blossoms, Latino Economic Development Center, DC Open Architecture Collaborative, Washington DC Economic Partnership, and the Washington Area Community Investment Fund.  These partnerships have allowed LIIF to leverage additional resources to support our thinly staffed program.

LIIF is pleased to contribute to OSSE’s aim of increasing the business capacity of childcare providers in the District.  In addition to the one-on-one technical assistance and trainings, LIIF shares resources with OSSE programs that support childcare, and participates in collaborative meetings to brainstorm best practices for assisting providers.  OSSE’s creation of a shared folder of resources, and clear messaging about the programs available to providers, have enhanced the network of support for childcare and each of our individual teams’ efforts.

We are proud of the strong results of this grant program to date, and are optimistic about our ongoing efforts to meet, and exceed, the A2Q program goals.  LIIF is grateful to OSSE for their collaboration with the A2Q grant program, as well as council’s continued support of, and investment in, early childhood.  Thank you for your time.