The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) provides states with a unique opportunity to strategically lay the foundation for addressing long-standing inequities and best supporting children with disabilities and developmental delays, who have long been underrepresented in our early childhood system and have endured some of the greatest impacts of the pandemic. As states navigate the complexity that is effectively utilizing and distributing these historic funds, equity should be at the center of their process to prioritize the needs of children and families who have been disproportionately impacted.
The following guide contains strategies and considerations for using federal funds to prioritize children with disabilities and developmental delays with a focus on equity. The guide specifically addresses use of the following funds:
- Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) Part B – Section 619 ($200 Million) and IDEA Part C ($250 Million)
- Supplemental Child Care and Development Block Grant ($14.99 Billion) and Child Care Stabilization Funds ($23.98 Billion)
- Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, aka ESSER ($122.77 Billion)
- Head Start Funds ($1 Billion)
There are several opportunities to ensure ARPA funds are implemented at the state and local level to maximize impact for our children with disabilities and their families. Now is the time to ensure families — particularly families of color — can access the early intervention and early childhood special education services they need (and may have been previously disconnected from), better support inclusive child care and preschool programs for young children with disabilities, and test out innovative service delivery models. By strategically utilizing these investments to meet the needs of children and families most affected, states can work towards building a more equitable early childhood system and addressing existing disparities that were only worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.