Strengthen and Grow Child Care Grants

Strengthen and Grow Child Care Grants

Illinois was awarded federal relief dollars through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to ensure that child care programs can weather the pandemic – and emerge from it stronger than before. So far, this funding has been used to provide Child Care Restoration Grants and the Child Care Workforce Bonus program. In 2022, the Strengthen and Grow Child Care Grant (SGCC) will provide stable, predictable funding to support high-quality child care and invest in our critical child care workforce.

During 2022-2023, IDHS Division of Early Childhood (DEC) offered Strengthen & Grow Child Care grants. These grants were designed to align with the Early Childhood Funding Commission’s recommendations.

  • The new grants were designed taking all funding streams into account to maximize access to stable and predictable funding in order to improve quality and support workforce development.
  • These grants prioritize equitable and transparent funding across all of Illinois, focusing on those hardest hit by the pandemic, including those providers operating without existing grant-based revenue.
  • Programs that operate without predictable grant funding from sources like Head Start and Preschool for All struggle the most to pay reasonable wages and make investments in quality programming.
  • In alignment with what the Funding Commission heard from the field, the SGCC grants will provide the additional resources that providers with minimal existing grant-based public funding need so that they can make necessary investments in workforce development and quality programming.
  • As recommended by the Funding Commission, the State can no longer make our investments in early childhood one funding stream at a time, but rather must take all sources of programs’ funding into consideration. To achieve truly equitable funding, we must intentionally support those providers who have historically had the least funding stability, especially where they are serving low-income families. The SGCC grant focuses on supporting these providers.

SGCC ended in September 2023.  Programs are encouraged to apply for the Smart Start Transition Grants for further grant funding.

SGCC Quarters ran as follows:

  • SGCC Round 1: February – April 2022 (Applications available January 10, 2022 - February 4, 2022)
  • SGCC Round 2: May – July 2022 (Applications available March 1, 2022 - March 18, 2022)
  • SGCC Round 3: August – October 2022 (Applications available May 31, 2022 - June 21, 2022)
  • SGCC Round 4: November – January 2023 (Applications available August 29, 2022 - September 16, 2022)
  • SGCC Round 5 February – April 2023 (Applications available November 28, 2022 – December 22, 2022)
  • SGCC Round 6 May – September 2023 (Applications available March 6, 2023 – March 24, 2023)

pdf SGCC Flyer (387 KB)  - pdf Spanish (412 KB)
pdf SGCC FAQ (1.12 MB)  -  pdf Spanish (1.13 MB)

Change from DUNS number to Unique Entity Identifier

On April 4, 2022, the federal government changed the unique entity identifier used across the federal government from the DUNS number to the Unique Entity ID (UEI). Entities doing business with the federal government will now require the Unique Entity ID created in This transition allows the government to streamline the entity identification and validation process, making it easier and less burdensome for entities to do business with the federal government.

New entities that have not registered to for their Unique Entity ID can find a fact sheet with information about the change and what entities need to do.

Existing registered entities can find their Unique Entity ID by following the steps here

The Strengthen and Grow Child Care Grants were available to all programs who:

  • are licensed as a child care center, child care home, or group child care home. 
  • were in operation as of March 2021 and continue to care for children today. 
  • operate full-day and full-year, defined as a program that is open and offering at least eight consecutive hours of care per day, five days per week. 
  • enrolled 10% or more of the program’s licensed capacity (for Round 6 this is licensed capacity as of February 2023) with children in the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) during any month in 2020-2023 and currently participate in CCAP.   
  • Starting in round 5 programs that receive up to 75% of total early childhood program/site revenue from Early Childhood Block Grant funding (including Preschool for All (PFA) and/or Prevention Initiative (PI)) or Head Start/Early Head Start are eligible to apply (other eligibility requirements must be met). This is an increase from the previous eligibility threshold of up to 50% of revenues from those sources. 

The Strengthen and Grow Child Care Grant provided child care homes with $2,500 per program per quarter, group child care homes with $3,750 per program per quarter, and child care centers with $6,250 per classroom per quarter.

Additional add-on funds were available for programs in areas where families are facing greater systemic barriers, such as low employment, poverty, or crowded housing. Funds were awarded in advance of each quarter so that programs could plan to incorporate them into their regular operating budgets, creating predictable and stable funding models. 

Programs were required to spend at least 50% of their quarterly award on new investments to recognize, reward, and adequately compensate their workforce to acknowledge the key role that early childhood staff plays to deliver high-quality care.

Programs could spend the remaining award on additional workforce investments or could use the funding to enhance their child care environments and the early childhood education programming they deliver. Funding could also be used in a program’s continuing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Programs were required to provide a budget as part of the application. Programs were also required to provide quarterly reporting after each grant period. 

SGCC 2023 Appeal Process

Appeals were accepted for the following reasons:

  • Programs found Ineligible due to CCAP Enrollment Percentages if programs can prove they had at least 10% of their licensed capacity enrolled in CCAP during any month of 2020-2023 AND are still caring for children in CCAP.
  • Programs who are caring for foster children and are receiving payments from DCFS.
  • Programs who ran into issues when applying, and have been in contact with the help desk to try and troubleshoot. (Proof of communication will need to be submitted with appeal documentation)

SGCC Reporting

We encourage you to use the resources below to help you complete the required reporting. All SGCC Round 1-6 reporting will be required to receive future grant funding.

Resources to help complete quarterly reporting:

SGCC Reporting Dashboards

Tip sheets and Information Resources:

Helpful Links:


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