LAWRENCE — Mayor Dan Rivera regularly describes Lawrence as a "workforce of the Merrimack Valley," with residents employed in essential jobs throughout the pandemic.
As they do so, however, finding and paying for daycare is a big challenge, Rivera said.
He pointed to an incident over the summer when police shut down what they described as an illegal child care enterprise being run out of a Bromfield Street apartment.
"It's a problem we face," said Rivera, noting that in most Lawrence families "both parents need to work."
To help fix this issue, Rivera on Wednesday rolled out a $400,000 scholarship fund to help 200 children enroll in licensed daycare programs.
The fund is being created in partnership with The Community Group and several Lawrence-based child care providers licensed by the Department of Early Education and Care, he said.
It is earmarked for "those who do not qualify for childcare subsidies but are under a certain income amount."
Rivera personally knows the expense of daycare. With two young children of his own, he said monthly daycare costs are more expensive than his mortgage payment.
"We have seen families in difficult situations these past couple of months; being put in a position of having to decide between losing their jobs, leaving their kids home alone or placing them with unlicensed providers," Rivera said.
Children will be placed in structured environments where they will have access to the internet, adults familiar with remote learning plans, nutritious food, physical activity, outdoor play, and safe, socially distanced interactions with peers, according the plan.
Maria Gonzalez Moeller, CEO of The Community Group, which will administer the program, said "providing quality education programs and supporting families is at the heart of what we do."
Interested families can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (978) 722-2593, (978) 722-2534 or (978) 722-2560.