Research from the Oregon State University Extension Service identified Tillamook County as a child care desert – a county where there is not enough child care for demand. In 2019, only 4% of babies and toddlers up to 2 years old have access to child care. Children ages 3-5 only had a one-in-five chance of finding child care.
In response, community partners organized the Tillamook County Early Child Care and Education Task Force in 2019. OSU Extension’s Open Campus program co-led the task force to facilitate collaboration between community stakeholders in Tillamook County.
The COVID-19 pandemic made the situation worse in the county. Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, Tillamook County was awarded $841,000 in aid to offset expenses related to the pandemic. With guidance from the task force, Extension and Tillamook YMCA, $131,000 of those dollars were allocated to Tillamook child care providers.
The relief funds were distributed to 17 providers so they could continue caring for children. Four new child care facilities opened with the funding. As a result, child care expanded from 62 spots to 230, and total hours served per child went from 3,520 to 26,653. The money supported tuition reimbursement for families, personal protective equipment, facility improvements and supplies. A long-term plan for increasing child care availability is being planned.