Early Learning Fund


To increase the availability of voluntary programs, services, and activities that support early childhood development, increase parent effectiveness, and promote the learning readiness of young children to enter school ready to learn. To support parents, child care providers, and caregivers wanting to incorporate early learning activities into the daily lives of young children. To remove barriers to the provision of an accessible system of early childhood learning programs in communities throughout the United States. To increase the availability and affordability of professional development activities and compensation for caregivers and child care providers. To facilitate the development of community-based systems of collaborative service delivery models characterized by resource sharing and linkages among the appropriate support groups and services for local planning.

General information about this opportunity
Last Known Status
Deleted 05/06/2008 (Budget authority appropriated for FY 01 as established by Public Law 106-554 expired in FY 05 with no subsequent appropriations. All grants have expired.)
Program Number
Federal Agency/Office
Type(s) of Assistance Offered
Project Grants.
Program Accomplishments
In fiscal year 2002, 31 grants were awarded. It is estimated that in fiscal year 2003, up to 50 grants will be awarded. No awards will be made in fiscal year 2004.
Public Law 106-554; Early Learning Opportunities Act of 2001, Title VIII, Section 801.
Who is eligible to apply/benefit from this assistance?
Applicant Eligibility
When Congress appropriates at least $150 million to carry-out activities under the ELOA, grants will be provided on a formula-basis to States. States will fund Local Councils that have been designated by an entity of local government. Indian Tribes, Alaska Regional Corporations, and Native Hawaiian entities will be eligible to compete for reserved funds as specified in the Act. At appropriation levels below $150 million in a fiscal year, HHS is directed to award grants directly to Local Councils, on a competitive basis. Eligible Local Councils must be designated by an entity of local government (or Indian Tribe, Alaska Regional Corporation, or Native Hawaiian entity). "State" means each of the several States of the United States, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
Beneficiary Eligibility
The purpose of this grant program is to enable Local Councils to increase, support, expand, and better coordinate early learning opportunities for children and families through local community organizations. These funds can be used to benefit young children from birth up to the age of mandatory school attendance in their State. To meet the program goal to improve the learning readiness of young children, grant awards will be made to Local Councils that can best assess their community needs and create a plan to facilitate the development of community-based systems and collaborative service models, provide continuity of services for young children, and help parents and other caregivers promote early learning. Projects must address "enhancing early childhood literacy" and two or more of the other seven activities specified in the Act.
The application must include a letter from an entity of local government (or Indian Tribe, Alaska Regional Corporation, or Native Hawaiian entity) designating the applicant as a "Local Council" to serve one or more localities. Local government means a local unit of government, including specifically a county, municipality, city, town, township, borough, local public authority, council of governments (whether or not incorporated as a nonprofit corporation under State law), and any other regional or interstate entity. Membership of the government body of a Local Council must include representatives as follows: (1) Local agencies that will be directly affected by early learning programs assisted under ELOA and the program announcement; (2) parents; (3) other individuals concerned with early learning issues in the locality, such as representatives of entities providing elementary education, child care resource and referral services, early learning opportunities, child care, and health services; and (4) other key community leaders. Local Councils are required to submit a current needs and resource assessment, documenting the needs of the young children and families in their locality, as well as a plan that addresses the most significant needs. Nonprofit organizations submitting an application must submit proof of their nonprofit status at the time of their submission. This can be accomplished by providing a copy of the applicant's listing in the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) most recent list of tax-exempt organizations described in Section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code or by providing a copy of the currently valid IRS tax exemption certificate, or by providing a copy of the articles of incorporation bearing the seal of the State.
What is the process for applying and being award this assistance?
Pre-Application Procedure
When the funds available for ELOA are less than $150 million in a fiscal year, HHS will announce the availability of the funds through an announcement in the Federal Register. The Federal Register will detail the application requirements and processes. Application forms as furnished by HHS must be used for this program. This program is excluded from coverage under E.O. 12372.
Application Procedure
Applications will be submitted to ACYF or its designee as described in the Federal Register Announcement. Applications will be reviewed for conformance by Federal staff. Those applications that are in compliance with the Act and the requirements outlined in the announcement will undergo competitive review.
Award Procedure
Each of the applications will undergo an eligibility and conformance review by Federal staff at the Child Care Bureau. Applications that pass the eligibility and conformance review will be assigned to members of a review panel to review them based on the evaluation criteria listed in the application guidance. The Child Care Bureau will conduct an administrative review of the applications and the results of the competitive review panels and make recommendations for funding to the ACYF Commissioner. The Commissioner will make the final selection of the applications to be funded.
Applications are generally due 60 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register, although this may vary from 30 to 60 days.
Approval/Disapproval Decision Time
The time required for the application to be approved or disapproved will be approximately 120 days. Grant awards will be announced during the fourth quarter (September) of the fiscal year.
There is no appeal for the denial of a new grant.
None are anticipated.
How are proposals selected?
Local Council applicants will be selected competitively based on the extent to which they successfully specify goals and objectives, explain the expected results and benefits, develop an approach including a work plan, explain their evaluation methodology, demonstrate staff and organizational capacity, including financial, and develop and justify their budget.
How may assistance be used?
Grant funds under this program will be used to pay for early learning programs that are likely to produce sustained gains in early learning. Local councils will ensure that funds made available under this program are used for three or more of the following activities: (1) Helping parents, caregivers, child care providers, and educators increase their capacity to facilitate the development of cognitive, language comprehension, expressive language, social-emotional, and motor skills, and promote learning readiness; (2) promoting effective parenting; (3) enhancing early childhood literacy; (4) developing linkages among early learning programs within a community and between early learning programs and health care services for young children; (5) increasing access to early learning opportunities for young children with special needs, including developmental delays, by facilitating coordination with other programs serving such young children; (6) increasing access to existing early learning programs by expanding the days or times that the young children are served, by expanding the number of young children served, or by improving the affordability of the programs for low-income families; (7) improving the quality of early learning through professional development and training activities, increased compensation, and recruitment and retention incentives, for early learning providers; and (8) removing barriers to early learning, including transportation difficulties and absence of programs during nontraditional work times. In the case of a collaborative activity funded under the Early Learning Opportunities Act (ELOA) and another provision of law providing for Federal child care or early learning programs, the use of equipment and nonconsumable supplies will not be restricted to children enrolled or otherwise participating in the program carried out under this program or other provision during a period in which the activity is predominately funded under ELOA or other provision. No person, including a parent will be required to participate in any program of early childhood education, early learning, parent education, or developmental screening pursuant to the provisions of the program. Nothing in this program will be construed to affect the rights of parents otherwise established in Federal, State, or local law. No entity that receives funds under this program will be required to provide services through a particular instructional method or in a particular instructional setting to comply with the program. No funds provided under this program will be used to carry out an activity funded under another provision of law providing for Federal child care or early learning programs, unless an expansion of such activity is identified in the local needs assessment and performance goals under the program. Amounts received under this program will be used to supplement and not supplant other Federal, State, and local public funds expended to promote early learning.
What are the requirements after being awarded this opportunity?
Semi-annual financial reports, semi-annual progress reports, and final financial and final summary progress reports.
Audits will be conducted in accordance with guidelines established in the revised OMB Circular No. A-123, "Audits of States, Local Governments, and Non-Profit Organizations," and implemented in 7 CFR Part 3052. In accordance with the provisions of OMB Circular No. A-133 (Revised, June 24, 1997), Audits of States, Local Governments, and Nonprofit Organizations, nonfederal entities that expend financial assistance of $300,000 or more in Federal awards will have a single or a program-specific audit conducted for that year. Nonfederal entities that expend less than $300,000 a year in Federal awards are exempt from Federal audit requirements for that year, except as noted in Circular A-133. Additional audits may be necessary.
Grantees must maintain separate records for each grant to ensure that funds are used for the purpose the grant was made. All matching contributions must be verifiable in the grantee organization's records. Records are subject to inspection during the life of the grant and for 3 years thereafter.
Other Assistance Considerations
Formula and Matching Requirements
If the funds appropriated to carry out this program are less than $150,000,000 for any fiscal year, HHS shall award grants for the fiscal year directly to local councils, on a competitive basis, to pay the Federal share of the cost of carrying out early learning programs in the locality served by the local council. In any fiscal year, one percent of the total amount appropriated will be reserved to be allotted to Indian Tribes, regional corporations, and Native Hawaiian entities of which, 0.5 percent shall be available to Indian Tribes, and 0.5 percent shall be available to Regional corporations and Native Hawaiian entities. If the funds appropriated are $150,000,000 or more, after reserving one percent for Indian Tribes, Regional Corporations, and Native Hawaiian entities, HHS shall allot to each State the sum of: 1) An amount that bears the same ratio to 50 percent of such funds as the number of children 4 years of age and younger living in families with incomes below the poverty line in the State to the number of such children in all States; and 2) an amount that bears the same ratio to 50 percent of such funds as the number of children 4 years of age and younger living in families with incomes below the poverty line in the States bears to the number of children in all States. No State shall receive an allotment for a fiscal year that is less than 40 percent of the total amount appropriated for the fiscal year under ELOA. The Federal share of costs will be 85 percent for the first and second years of the grant, 80 percent for the third and fourth years of the grant, and 75 percent for the fifth and subsequent years of the grant.
Length and Time Phasing of Assistance
Generally, grants will be awarded annually in September. Awards to Local Councils will be made on a competitive basis for a 17-month project period (e.g., September 30, 2003 - February 28, 2005).
Who do I contact about this opportunity?
Regional or Local Office
Regional Administrator, Administration for Children and Families. (See Appendix IV of the Catalog for list of addresses of Regional Offices.)
Headquarters Office
Child Care Bureau, 330 C Street SW., Washington, DC 20447. Telephone: (202) 690-6243.
Website Address
Financial Information
Account Identification
(Grants) FY 02 $24,997,000; FY 03 est $32,765,630; and FY 04 est $0.
Range and Average of Financial Assistance
$250,000 to $1,000,000; $700,000.
Regulations, Guidelines and Literature
45 CFR Parts 74 and 92.
Examples of Funded Projects
ACF awarded Early Learning Opportunity Act (ELOA) grants in fiscal year 2002 through a competitive process. In fiscal year 2002, ELOA grants were awarded to 31 Local Councils, including one federally-recognized Tribe, in 22 States and the District of Columbia. Each of the 31 grantees is addressing enhancing early childhood literacy in addition to two or more of the other seven allowable activities. Most of the projects include strategies to improve early learning through parent education, child care provider training and professional development, and better linkages among service providers within local communities. Several grantees are establishing better connections between health and child care programs, while others are expanding the availability of care for special populations including infants and toddlers, children with special needs, and families that require non-standard-hour care.


Federal Grants Resources