Indiana early care and education providers are in the midst of one of the most trying times they’ve ever experienced

In the best of times, providers operate under razor-thin margins from the misalignment between the cost of providing care and the ability of families to afford it. The COVID-19 pandemic has further threatened operations, forcing many providers to close their doors, reduce staff and seriously consider how they’ll move forward with additional safety-related expenses and challenges in this new environment.

Even as providers maintain services or reopen their operations, uncertainty looms. Future waves of the virus will likely impact staffing levels and temporarily disrupt operations. New regulatory constraints will limit classroom and center sizes. High rates of unemployment will lessen demand for early care. And uncertainty about health and safety may lead parents to choose alternative care options for the foreseeable future. The duration and scale of these factors are uncertain, but we must do all we can to continue providing accessible, affordable and quality care to Indiana’s early learners and fuel the state’s economic recovery.

With the support of Lilly Endowment Inc., the Come Back Stronger Fund has awarded over $13.1 million to 1,025 Indiana early childhood education providers. These grants are reinforcing Indiana’s high-quality early learning programs, especially for the state’s most vulnerable children, by providing financial support for added pandemic-related-safety needs. Through these awarded providers, over 45,300 Hoosier children will continue having high-quality child care experiences. The fund’s remaining $1.8 million will support critical service gaps and communities with the greatest need. 

It is extremely important for us to make our families feel comfortable and confident in our decision to reopen, and with this grant we will be able to accomplish that goal.

Grand Summary

Since the Come Back Stronger Fund opened in May, it has awarded over $13.1 million in grants to 1,025 Indiana early childhood education providers to support additional health- and safety-related measures in their programs. Grants span 81 Indiana counties and will impact more than 45,300 Indiana children ages 0-5.

Grant amounts ranged from $2,000-$40,000 per site, based on providers’ enrollment numbers and total percentage of families served who use Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) or On My Way Pre-K dollars.

Eligible to receive

$ 0


Eligible to receive

$ 0


Eligible to receive

$ 0


Eligible to receive

$ 0


Coming Back Stronger Across Indiana

Awarded providers are listed on the map below. Click on a county to filter the awards list. (Ctrl/Cmd +Click to select multiple).
Early Learning Indiana has identified providers by county who are eligible for Come Back Stronger funds. Click here to view the map.

Special thanks to the following organizations serving as part of the Come Back Stronger Advisory Committee:

Information for Come Back Stronger Fund Awardees

Approved Uses of Funding

Grant funds are intended to help providers safely and effectively continue or resume operations and adapt to COVID-19 challenges. Eligible organizations may request support across the categories below. Click here to view the detailed Allowable Expenses document.

Replenishing previously existing supplies or offsetting new expenses (including personal protective equipment, individual learning supplies, meal preparation and packaging, cleaning supplies, etc.) that are required to adhere to social distancing and safely serve children and families.

Investing in reopening planning efforts, support for family communications highlighting safety practices, mental health supports, or related professional services.

Investing in short-term environmental improvements to allow providers to safely care for children amid regulatory capacity limits and social distancing requirements (e.g. ventilation equipment, temporary space rentals, physical barriers, etc.)

Expenses related to programs expanding to serve more children within existing and new locations in response to a depletion in community supply. This could include expanding operating hours, opening new seats, expanding to new sites or building networks that support other providers.


Paying substitutes or transitional staff costs related to limited group sizes.


Frequently Asked Questions


The Come Back Stronger Fund is a $15 million fund created in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic through the generosity of Lilly Endowment Inc. It is designed to reinforce Indiana’s supply of high-quality early learning opportunities and support providers across the state who are committed to serving vulnerable family populations by supporting added safety-related expenses and COVID-19 challenges.

The Come Back Stronger Fund Advisory committee includes local, state and national early childhood education leaders. Members on the Advisory Committee are listed on the Come Back Stronger Fund website.


Sí, comuníquese con con cualquier pregunta e indique que prefiere una respuesta en español.


No. You do not need to pay back grant funds. However, awarded programs must comply with the requirements of the grant agreement, including providing financial documentation for expenditures.


Programs are eligible to receive up to $40,000 per site, based on enrollment numbers. Providers with fewer than 20 children qualify for a grant of up to $2,000; providers caring for 20-50 children can receive up to $10,000; providers caring for 51-100 children are eligible to receive up to $20,000; and providers caring for more than 100 children can receive up to $30,000. All providers whose total child population consists of 25% or more CCDF or On My Way Pre-K enrollments can receive an additional $1,000; $5,000; $7,500 or $10,000 based on their enrollment numbers, respectively.

Please email with any questions.

Yes, Early Learning Indiana invites other organizations and individuals to contribute to the fund to help make a bigger impact and award more grants to more programs. If interested in contributing, please contact Emily Nelson at

No. Organizations may only use funds for allowable expenses in the five support categories.


Interested and eligible providers should apply online. Click here to apply.

Applications will be received until the $15 million fund is completely awarded. Proposals will be reviewed and awarded on a weekly basis as follows:

  • Proposals received by May 28 will be reviewed by June 4
  • Proposals received by June 4 will be reviewed by June 11
  • Proposals received by June 11 will be reviewed by June 18
  • Proposals received by June 18 will be reviewed by June 25
  • Proposals received by June 25 will be reviewed by July 2
  • Proposals received by July 2 will be reviewed by July 10
  • Proposals received by July 9 will be reviewed by July 16.
  • Proposals received by July 16 will be reviewed by July 23.
  • Proposals received by July 23 will be reviewed by July 30.
  • Proposals received by July 30 will be reviewed by August 6.

Yes. While the Come Back Stronger Fund outlines a maximum award amount for which providers may apply, you may indicate on your application if you would like to apply for a lesser grant amount.

No. You may only count in your enrollment the children enrolled in your program, ages 0-5, as of March 1, 2020.


No. Programs may only apply for this grant once. If you have concerns about your application, please attend the application walk-through webinar on May 26 and reach out to for assistance.

Please submit one application for each site.

Yes, Early Learning Indiana will host several upcoming opportunities to support providers. View the “Opportunities to Learn More” section above. Please send additional requests for technical assistance to

If you submit your full organizational budget, we must be able to easily review your early learning program financials.

Please use this sample budget as a guide. You can receive additional assistance through SPARK Learning Lab.

No. The organizational budget should show expenses and revenue for your early learning program. Please explain your plan to use grant funds in your grant narrative.


Early care and education providers must meet the following eligibility criteria to apply.

  • A for-profit or nonprofit licensed or registered center, ministry or family child care home in the state of Indiana and in good standing
  • An approved CCDF or On My Way Pre-K provider or a provider that otherwise serves children from vulnerable family populations, defined as households at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level
  • Operating as a Paths to QUALITY Level 3 or 4, or as a Paths to QUALITY Level 2 with a demonstrated commitment to achieving a higher level of program quality
  • Serving children ages 0-5

The focus of this Fund is organizations that have already achieved or are close to achieving high-quality, assuming that if we can help these providers sustain their operations, they will be well-situated to serve families immediately and to help other organizations on the path to improvement. While not the purpose of this Fund, we will continue to invest in other efforts to help organizations pursue quality improvement.

Programs will demonstrate their commitment to advancing beyond Level 2 by uploading their Program Development Plan in their application. The Advisory Committee will also review your organization’s response to the Indiana Self-Assessment Tool (I-SAT) and verify completion of related prerequisite training(s).

Yes. Sites must be Paths to QUALITY Level 2, 3 or 4 at the time of the application.

Programs must be Paths to QUALITY Level 2, 3 or 4 at the time of the application.

Yes, you are eligible to apply if your site meets all other criteria.

Maybe. To be eligible, a program must be either an approved CCDF or On My Way Pre-K provider, or a provider that serves children from households at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. Please justify in your grant application why you’re in need of the grant funding to serve vulnerable populations.

No. To be eligible, a program must be either an approved CCDF or On My Way Pre-K provider, or a provider that serves children from vulnerable family populations, defined as households at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. Please justify how you serve vulnerable family populations in your application.

No. You may count any child enrolled in your program AND between the ages of 0 and 5 as of March 1, 2020. Any child older than 5 does not count in your enrollment total. For example, if your center only serves 3-5-year-olds, you’re eligible to apply under the age criteria and will count those children.

Yes. Programs that have received state grants or other emergency public funding during the COVID-19 pandemic are still eligible to apply. Come Back Stronger Fund grants are designed to work alongside state assistance grants and other emergency public funding by helping to offset new expenses incurred by providers to safely operate and continue delivering early learning experiences in the wake of the pandemic.

Find data on low capacity areas in the 2018 Indiana Child Care Access Study.

Yes. The Indianapolis PSP could be noted as an example of serving children from households at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. However, you cannot count these children towards CCDF or OMWPK enrollments.

To save a Microsoft Office document (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) as a PDF, click Save As. Under File Format, select PDF. To save a page from a web browser as a PDF, select File, then Print and then Save as PDF. Some web browsers provide an “Export as PDF” option under File. If using a photo on your phone, it should already be a JPEG or PNG format. If the photo is not uploading, make sure to turn off your “live photo” setting, retake the photo and try to submit it again.

Please reach out to your local Child Care Resource and Referral Agency for more information on capacity in your community. Find your agency and contact information here.


If awarded a Come Back Stronger Fund grant, grantees are agreeing to use all funds by March 31, 2021. If you feel you won’t be able to use all awarded funds, please apply for a lesser amount that you can use by March 31, 2021.

Yes. The intent of this fund is to support providers as they reopen or return to their previous enrollment if they’ve stayed open. You will need to share your plan to use these funds to reopen and explain the factors that affect your timing.

The review committee will process applications on a rolling basis until all funds are allocated, awarding grants in 2-week windows. You will be notified via email of your application status.

Awarded providers will receive funding approximately two weeks after submitting required paperwork.

If you did not receive a confirmation email within an hour of submitting your application, please check all junk and spam folders, then email

There will be two reports throughout the grant period – a shorter mid-term progress report and a comprehensive final grant report.

The grant is intended to support costs for which there are no other funds available, including expenses associated with operating safely in response to COVID-19.

Give to the Come Back Stronger Fund