New early childhood program would create up to 1,000 spaces in childcare in Harris County

Families will be able to apply as early as Monday, June 12 and know if they are eligible 2 weeks after applying.


Briana Williams/Houston Public Media
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announcing REACH program.

On Monday Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced a new early childhood program, the early Raising Education Access for Children in Harris County (REACH) program.

"It provides free high quality childcare for families in high-need areas by giving child care centers the resources to expand their services, and not any childcare center," Hidalgo said. "High quality childcare centers that are doing a great job but that need to expand."

The Early REACH program will be funded with $26 million in American Rescue Plan funds. Hidalgo said they will be looking into other forms of funding to extend the life of the program.

"We're looking at public/private partnerships, federal state funds certainly, and additional ARPA funds as well to try to have this initial program go for a little bit longer," she said.

The program is expected to create up to 1,000 childcare spaces for children up to the age of four. Commissioner Lesley Briones said the program will also be increasing the compensation for early childhood educators to at least $15 an hour.

"We know that it's particularly hard for childcare centers, even the best ones, to keep their workforce," Briones said. "It is a revolving door because these tend to be lower-paying jobs."

Rene Solis with Baker Ripley said the program is different from others he has worked on because it seeks to address childcare inequities in Harris County.

"By specifically targeting childcare deserts within Harris county, the early REACH program can aim to improve access to early care and education for everyone in Harris county," he said.

Officials hope the program will lead to higher employment rates, reduce contact with the criminal justice system, and raise graduation rates as well as academic performance. Families will learn whether they are eligible within two weeks of applying. They can apply as early as Monday, June 12 by phone or website.

Patricia Ortiz

Patricia Ortiz


Patricia Ortiz is a daily reporter for News 88.7. Her work includes a variety of topics including transportation, technology, energy, immigration and education. Patricia graduated from the University of Houston in Fall 2022 with a Bachelor's in Journalism. She spent most of her college career at the university's literary magazine,...

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