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For Immediate Release
May 9, 2023
Elizabeth Goodsitt, 608-266-1683
Jennifer Miller, 608-266-1683

DHS Announces Pandemic Recovery Grant Awards and Shares Program Highlights

Birth to 3 programs are transforming lives with COVID relief grant initiatives

Almost $1.6 million in supplemental funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allocated by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) to 23 county Birth to 3 programs last year is yielding positive results for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families. Counties have been using funds to promote child and family-focused pandemic recovery efforts by helping families overcome challenges related to the pandemic, including decreased access to resources and increased stress levels.

"DHS remains committed to supporting the well-being of children and families in Wisconsin during the pandemic recovery," said DHS Secretary-designee Kirsten Johnson. "We look forward to witnessing the ongoing positive impact these initiatives have in local communities."

Following extensive community engagement and input from partners and stakeholders last year, DHS committed to using $1.6 million to support activities at the local level and invited county programs to apply. DHS was able to award all 23 applicants with funding in July 2022. These funds must be used by September 30, 2023.

With projects well underway, the Birth to 3 programs have reported numerous successes in their mid-term progress reports. For instance, Chippewa County's program provided 69 Birth to 3 families with memberships to the Children's Museum in Eau Claire and Play Space in Chippewa Falls. According to a Chippewa County Birth to 3 Program representative, 53% of enrolled families received transportation support and 51% received a support related to grocery and/or baby essentials.

“It was a huge help and is so important to our families and community,” said a Chippewa County Birth to 3 parent. Another Chippewa County parent expressed gratitude, saying, "We spend two hours in the car driving our daughter to her inclusive daycare and autism therapy appointments. I have reduced my hours at work to get her to her care; we go through a ton of gas. This gas card got us through two weeks of driving and saved money for other expenses."

Other program highlights include Dunn County’s playgroup, which has served 68 families. The county’s Birth to 3 Program social media page has also allowed families to connect with one another and provide support. Additionally, the Kewaunee County Birth to 3 Program has expanded its ability to support some families through additional home visits.

"We are excited to see the innovative solutions and initiatives that these grant recipients have started," said Deb Rathermel, DHS Bureau of Children Services Director. "These projects demonstrate the commitment of our local communities to support the well-being of Wisconsin's children and families during these challenging times."

The following counties – some working individually and others collaborating in groups – have been awarded funding to support a variety of initiatives, including addressing barriers to safe and reliable transportation; providing child-specific needs not covered by insurance or other funding; facilitating trainings; hosting playgroups; and offering tangible supports for families:

  • Barron: $59,390
  • Chippewa: $61,949
  • Dane: $55,000
  • Door: $102,479
  • Dunn: $52,500
  • Eau Claire: $40,320
  • Jackson: $200,000
  • Jefferson: $127,612
  • Kenosha: $40,308
  • Kewaunee: $69,852
  • La Crosse: $35,102
  • Lincoln, Langlade, and Marathon: $17,047
  • Manitowoc: $8,830 
  • Milwaukee: $200,000 
  • Outagamie, Winnebago, and Calumet: $22,656
  • Pepin and Buffalo: $9,500
  • Racine: $30,122
  • Sawyer: $10,401
  • Trempealeau: $107,840
  • Vernon: $43,737
  • Washington: $70,073
  • Waupaca: $200,000
  • Waushara: $32,071

"The ARPA funding is making a meaningful difference in the lives of Wisconsin families," said Medicaid Director Jamie Kuhn. "These grants are helping our local communities provide essential resources and support for children and families that were disproportionately affected by the pandemic."

ARPA was signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11, 2021 and included $250 million for programs across the nation serving infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families.

Find more information about the Child and Family-Focused Pandemic Recovery grant program and read additional success stories on the Wisconsin DHS website.

Last revised May 9, 2023