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Early Childhood Affordability Program - Grant application process is open

CORRECTION: The Early Childhood Affordability Grant Program is open to for-profit and non-profit licensed preschools or daycare providers.
Early Childhood Affordability Program

Early Childhood Affordability Program (ECAP) in Ashland
In August 2023, the Ashland City Council adopted the Early Childhood Affordability Grant Program plan and authorized City staff to begin implementation. This plan addresses childcare and early learning affordability, and access for Ashland families.
In March 2023, the first annual Economic Roundtable, conducted by the City Council, identified the need for a community partnership to assist with childhood development or care options for the Ashland community. Later in March 2023, Council adopted the top priorities for the 2023-2025 Biennium (BN) Budget and affordability was one of the three priorities embraced. The 2023-2025 BN Budget includes funding appropriations of $240K for an affordable childcare initiative, or grant program ($120K each fiscal year).
In June 2023, the City Council authorized an Early Learning Small Grant to Scienceworks Hands-on Museum in Ashland, in the amount of $5K to serve as matching funds to purchase two temporary classrooms and a bathroom modular building for use in developing an early childhood learning program on the Scienceworks campus. This additional childcare site will help alleviate childcare or preschool waitlists in Ashland that currently are six to twelve months long.
The ECAP is a pilot grant program for childcare providers in Ashland to allow them to offer affordability scholarships to qualified low and moderate Ashland households seeking early childcare options. This pilot program will allow for continual evaluation and updating throughout the initial 2023-2024 school/childcare year.  “Our hope is this program can provide support to working families in Ashland with the help they need in these unprecedented times.  It's one way the City is working to address affordability in our community,” stated City Manager, Joseph L. Lessard. Studies show that children in working family households thrive with access to early learning opportunities. “This program may also impact the Ashland School District and other local economic institutions and businesses, by helping them to attract and retain employees. Ideally, this program can help families choose to live and work in Ashland, and enroll their children in the Ashland school system,” Lessard went on to say.
The grants will be issued in the fall 2023, to non-profit, licensed/certified preschools or daycare providers in Ashland, who will in turn provide scholarships to families who are eligible for assistance. Providers interested in applying for a 2023-2024 affordability grant can now apply on the City of Ashland website at The deadline to apply is Wednesday, September 27, 2023.
Ashland City Councilor, Paula Hyatt, has been instrumental in this process. She has immersed herself in the community to gain a better understanding of the challenges. Hyatt is chairing the City Council’s Ad hoc Committee on Affordable Childcare and Early Childhood Development. “Solving this problem is not an easy solution and it is going to take all of us, and that is why I cannot express enough gratitude to this group [Council] for being willing to take a fearless first step. This is delivering a message of hope, this is delivering a message of collaboration and partnership and possibility and it’s exciting!”
Councilor Hyatt and the Ad hoc Committee will continue to monitor the program and report recommended outcome measures. This will be done on a quarterly basis so that the program can be effectively evaluated and will include addressing potential underutilized scholarship funding for recapture and re-award. A yearend program summary or narrative, along with scholarship data, will be presented to the City Council.
 “We are Better Together!”

Joseph L. Lessard, City Manager
City of Ashland

Released September 7, 2023 

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