Nye County commissioners have allocated $300,000 in federal pandemic grants to help start a child care program in Tonopah.
The town currently does not have a licensed daycare or after-school program. It’s a situation that has become dire for many parents here at the height of the pandemic, as school and work schedules were constantly disrupted, forcing them to make tough decisions.
Tonopah’s parents have relied heavily on babysitters, juggled their children’s needs with their work schedules — or dropped out of the workforce altogether to prioritize the needs of their families.
“It’s hard for parents to go back to work when there’s no child care,” said Stephani Elliott, contracts and grants manager for Nye County. “It’s been a huge impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Tonopah.”
The allocation for the Tonopah child care initiative, approved in March, is part of the larger $350 billion American Rescue Plan Act spending package that federal lawmakers have allocated to help communities recover. recover from the pandemic. Nye County will receive approximately $9 million under this program to support various projects, including public health responses and improvements to broadband and other infrastructure.
While it’s premature to report details of Tonopah’s childcare initiative, Elliott hopes the money can be invested to help parents get back to work.
“The availability of childcare services will help achieve this,” she said.
The lack of a licensed daycare has been difficult for parents and business owners in Tonopah, including Amber Carter, owner of Cre8 salon in Tonopah.
“It’s been difficult not only for me but also for my employees to be able to work while having young children,” Carter said. “I’m very lucky to only be able to work a few days a week, so I can plan my hours whether I have a babysitter or not.”
In a profession that encourages conversation, Carter hears the stories of many Tonopah residents in her living room.
“I have so many clients and friends who are really struggling to keep their jobs because of the lack of child care in Tonopah,” she said. “Tonopah desperately needs a daycare and after-school program.”
Between March and April 2020, 3.5 million mothers quit their jobs due to the pandemic, according to the US Census Bureau. While unemployment rates have improved nationwide, Tonopah’s parents have limited options.
“My employees can’t work the hours they need because they can’t find a stable babysitter, and my clients can’t come to my business because they don’t have a place to go. their children,” Carter said.
Samantha Kimber, who also works at the Cre8 salon, is one parent in need of daycare in town.
“I went from working 40 hours to probably 15 to 20 hours a week,” she said. “I just work around my mom and husband’s schedule to babysit while I work.”
Once county commissioners approve the grant policy, applications will be open to potential recipients.
Those interested in efforts to improve child care options at Tonopah should attend upcoming board meetings and comment publicly, Elliott said.
Prospective applicants should have a comprehensive plan in place and be prepared to pitch their ideas. Meetings are held the first and third Tuesday of each month at 10 a.m. in Tonopah and Pahrump.