COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The City of Columbus is taking steps to get more people working in the childcare industry.

It’s a program that started about a year ago and is now being extended.

Both the Columbus City Council and the CEO of the organization running the program said things have been going well with it, but there were also challenges a year ago that are still being dealt with today.

“Childcare is hard to find, difficult to afford,” said Action for Children CEO Eric Karolak. “Childcare providers are having a hard time staffing.”

Karolak said families and providers are facing challenges when it comes to early childhood education.

“The program’s been going very well, but we’ve got an ongoing crisis really that’s facing childcare programs, the families, and really the business that rely on them,” he said.

The program is called Franklin County RISE. Through it, families with three- or four-year-old children are eligible for $10,000 scholarships to help pay for licensed childcare programs. When it started about a year ago, it also offered $1,000 sign-on bonuses for educators.

“Childcare workers are some of the most underpaid workers, truly underpaid workers in the entire economy and so the money the city put on the line last year was to help attract new workers into the field,” said Columbus City Council Pro Tempore Elizabeth Brown.

Last November, council approved almost $4 million from the federal American Rescue Plan for the program. Using money from the initial commitment, on Monday night, council approved increasing the signing bonus up to as much as $2,500.

“We are seeing progress in the childcare field in terms of getting more slots available to kids, getting more teachers in the classroom, but we are not quite where we were pre-pandemic and I got to say, pre-pandemic, we weren’t where we needed to be,” Brown said.

To apply for scholarships or become a childcare provider, click here.