by Anitra D. Brown

New Orleans is one of six cities to win the JPMorgan Chase’s AdvancingCities initiative, an annual competition that provides funding to projects designed to advance equity in communities across the United States.

The winning proposal in New Orleans, NOLA C.A.R.E.S (Creating Access, Resources and Equity), is a collaborative of 12 organizations that will use the $5 million grant over three years to make improvements in childcare that will help working families as well as businesses and workers in the childcare industry. Led by Beloved Community, the organizations will work together to assist childcare businesses, which are largely owned by Black and Latinx women, while providing training to employees, entrepreneurs, and mothers.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell says the program funded by the collaboration “focuses on the backbone of our community.”

“We’re celebrating a $5 million commitment from JPMorgan Chase Advancing Cities to work with our education partners across the city of New Orleans that assist working women in our city–those that are in need of quality child care. And we know that early childhood education is something that is definitely needed. We know that there are gaps in terms of the seats that are available, and this grant will allow us to meet Black and Brown women where they are and provide their families with quality, affordable childcare.”

The emphasis the project will place on helping childcare providers grow their businesses is also important, Cantrell says.

Child care center owners in New Orleans––who are almost exclusively Black and Latinx women––often lack access to capital to improve and expand their facilities, leaving thousands of children unserved. The pandemic has heightened this lack of investment, as more than one-third of Louisiana child care business owners expect to close because of insufficient public subsidies that don’t cover the cost of care, high operating costs, and a lack of operating capital.

“Our small businesses are, again, the backbone of the economy of the city,” Mayor Cantrell said. “So we are really dealing with both sides of it––an employment-business side, as well as families. This will absolutely provide resources for our small businesses that will be able to even scale up and grow.

With support from JPMorgan Chase, the collaborative will increase access to capital, provide training opportunities for career advancement and develop a more equitable workforce in New Orleans, informed by the experiences of more than 800 Black and Latinx women.

“Improving access to quality childcare has many deep and lasting benefits. It can mitigate the gender wage gap and increase lifetime earnings. It can provide children with a safe and stimulating environment so they thrive. It helps employers retain talented, dedicated, working mothers,” said Greg Rattler, executive director and a market leader for JPMorgan Chase in New Orleans. “This partnership is working together to create the right solutions for our city and its people. It’s exciting to think how many lives will be made better by the work of this wonderful collaborative effort.”

NOLA C.A.R.E.S. seeks to align policy and practice across sectors so Black and Latinx mothers working in caregiving professions are valued and able to build wealth as the entrepreneurs, workforce, and beneficiaries of high-quality employer-supported child care.

NOLA C.A.R.E.S. will help introduce child care as a workplace benefit and provide capital and/or business and workforce training to support Black and Latinx women who provide childcare for Black and Latinx families.

“I am humbled and proud to be standing in this space and supporting this project,” said Wright. “As a mother with a child growing up in New Orleans, I am invested in seeing our babies thrive; and I am invested in seeing Black and Latinx women thrive. We all know that Black and Latinx women and mothers are the backbone of our community, so (JPMorgan Chase) is happy to be a part of this work and this effort.”

Over the course of the three-year commitment, the collaborative will help at least 120 Black and Latinx women receive a Child Development Associate (CDA) certification, establish an Early Learning Facilities Fund to make low- or no-cost childcare facilities more widely available, create a cohort of 20 local hospitality businesses to develop and implement plans for racially equitable workplaces that help Black and Latinx women advance into management positions, engage at least 500 women in participatory research and coordinate public policy to provide low-cost facilities to child care centers and increase public subsidies and worker compensation in New Orleans.

“This investment from JPMorgan Chase is going to be catalytic for economic mobility of Black and Latinx women in our region. We’re honored to partner with such committed and innovative leaders to provide comprehensive support that includes workforce development, entrepreneur capacity-building, community-engaged research, and ultimately access to more quality child care options for all New Orleans families,” said Rhonda Broussard, founder, and CEO of Beloved Community.

In addition to Beloved Community, NOLA C.A.R.E.S. partners include Agenda for Children, BanchaLenguias Language Justice Collective, the City of New Orleans Office of Youth and Families, For Providers by Providers of Louisiana, Early Partners, the Louisiana Department of Education, Louisiana Policy Institute for Children, Power Coalition for Equity & Justice, Total Community Action, United Way of Southeast Louisiana and the Windsor Court Hotel.

This is the second consecutive year that a New Orleans proposal has won an AdvancingCities competition. In 2020, JPMorgan Chase awarded $5 million to a collaborative led by NOLA Business Alliance to provide career pathways for people of color in the blue-green infrastructure industry. This investment is part of JPMorgan Chase’s $30 billion commitment to advance racial equity and builds on the firm’s $500 million, five-year initiative to invest in solutions to drive equitable growth through community-based strategies.

The official announcement of the grant was made Monday, Feb. 7 at the Tate-Etienne-Prevost (TEP) Center, the transformed site of historic McDonogh 19 school in the Lower Ninth Ward. The mixed-use project was developed with the help of a $1.8 million federal historic tax credit investment made by JPMorgan Chase. The TEP Center will have affordable senior apartments and offices for nonprofit groups serving the community-  including the Leona Tate Foundation for Change’s “Lower Ninth Ward Living Museum,” dedicated to the history of school desegregation and civil rights.

After Monday’s press conference Mayor Cantrell took a brief tour of the TEP Center, which was also made possible with direct investment from the City’s Office of Community Development’s Neighborhood Housing Improvement Fund.

District E City Councilman Oliver Thomas called the development an “anchor” that will help support the entire community.

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