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Mayor Wu directs grants to Boston family child-care providers

Funding for more accessible child care, approved by the City Council last year, was announced by Mayor Michelle Wu Wednesday.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

All licensed family child-care providers in Boston will receive $3,260 in an effort to stabilize an industry battered by the pandemic, Mayor Michelle Wu announced Tuesday.

The funding, approved by the City Council last year, comes from the federal American Rescue Plan, on top of pandemic aid the state is already allocating to small businesses.

Child-care providers have been receiving aid through the “Commonwealth Cares for Children” stabilization grant program, which advocates said has been vital to propping up providers since last July.

“It’s hard to overstate how important they have been to stabilizing our early education and care field, to keeping providers open, enabling providers to retain teachers, and making sure families have access to care solutions they need,” said Lauren Birchfield Kennedy, co-president and chief strategy officer of Neighborhood Villages, a Boston-based nonprofit.

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“This investment the city of Boston is making on top of these state grants will surely go a long way to helping to rebuild the capacity of Boston’s early education and care sector,” Kennedy added.

Family child-care providers — the group care settings that providers operate from their own homes — tend to be less expensive than child-care centers and offer more flexible hours.

“This is highlighting the need for family child-care providers,” said Amy O’Leary, executive director of Strategies for Children, an advocacy and policy organization addressing early education. “And that amount of money could really help a family child-care provider compared to a large center just because of the scale.”

The grants are intended to help family child-care providers sustain or expand their businesses and can be used for a variety of purposes, from supporting learning activities to hiring workers and providing retention bonuses.

The child-care industry, which was particularly hard hit by the pandemic lockdown in 2020 and the unpredictable work circumstances ever since, is largely composed of women. In Boston, 92 percent of child-care workers are women, 62 percent are people of color, and 39 percent are immigrants. The Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement has prioritized child care as a critical issue for Boston’s families.

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“Supporting family child care providers in the City of Boston is essential to our economic recovery,” Alexandra Valdez, the office’s executive director, said in a statement. “As a first-time mom, I know that it’s essential to ensure that childcare providers continue to have the resources needed in order to succeed.”

Boston currently has 459 family child-care programs. The city has lost 89 family child-care providers since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, while gaining 59 new ones.

Wu, who had two children while working as a city councilor, has committed to providing universal, affordable, high-quality early education and care for all children under 5. She has created an Office of Early Childhood to expand access, invest in child-care employees, and create a central point-of-entry for residents looking for child-care programming.

“Empowering early childhood and childcare providers is critical to ensuring an equitable recovery for Boston’s young children and working families,” Wu said in a statement. “As we work to ramp up access to accessible, high-quality childcare, these investments will immediately support our early childcare providers in their critical work to set up all of our children and families for success.”

Infant care costs an average $20,913 a year in Massachusetts, which is second only to Washington, D.C., in the cost of child care nationally, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank.

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Stephanie Ebbert can be reached at Stephanie.Ebbert@globe.com. Follow her @StephanieEbbert.