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Howard County Executive Calvin Ball said Wednesday that coronavirus relief funds from the federal government have been allocated to subsidize the costs of a new childcare program operated by the county’s Department of Recreation & Parks.

“Today I am pleased to announce the allocation of CARES Act funding to our Department of Recreation & Parks’ RecZone program to health and childcare. This funding will allow approximately 30% of a cost reduction to families. For the extended-day childcare, this is a reduction of $325 a week to $219 a week,” Ball (D) said in an online press gaggle.

Ball added: “We’re hopeful that this funding will allow more families to have access to much-needed childcare…reducing the cost of this program by a third for all of our families is a significant success and we hope it allows us to assist more Howard County families as classes resume over the next several weeks.”

Ball said the county will do whatever it can to compensate for services it cannot provide due to the pandemic.

“We will continue identifying and filling the gaps caused by this pandemic. And we remain committed to providing our community with the resources and services necessary to thrive.”

Raul Delerme, Director of Recreation & Parks, said RecZone is the third childcare program the county has launched since the beginning of the pandemic. Delerme emphasized that recommended safety guidelines are being followed at all the county’s childcare facilities.

“These programs have been essential to our county families and we are very happy to provide them with such a needed service. All of our childcare programs have been following the COVID-19 safety protocols from the CDC, Maryland Department of Education and our local health department. Those are currently in place at all of our childcare facilities and will be in the schools this fall.”

Delereme said the program will “provide families a safe, beneficial and accessible state-licensed  program with conventional staff working the program in schools during this unprecedented time.”

Laura Wetherald, deputy director of Recreation & Parks, said the program will operate Monday-Friday and will offer two shifts: 7:00 a.m. to 6 p.m. and 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Whetherald said classrooms and public areas will be limited to 15 persons at one time-13 children and two staff members.

Wetherald said some of the activities that the children will be able to participate in include: music and dance, drama, sports fitness, health and wellness, visual arts and crafts, and creative writing.

The reduced prices will go into effect starting Thursday, August 27. Credits will be provided to parents who have already registered for the program’s fall semester. The program accepts students in grades K-5 and begins Sept. 8.

In July, the Howard County Board of Education voted to begin the 2020-21 school year online.

There are 105,486 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland as of Wednesday morning, according to the state’s Department of Health, and 3,574 people in Maryland have died from the virus.

Maryland has tested more than 1.8 million people for COVID-19. The state’s positivity rate is at 3.35%, which is better than that of most states in the country.

This article originally appeared on MarylandReporter.com on August 26, 2020, and is republished with permission under Creative Commons License 3.0.


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