In response to the urgent need to provide safe child care facilities for critical health care providers and essential food distribution employees in Santa Barbara County, an incubator fund has been established with United Way of Santa Barbara County.

Several local philanthropic foundations have joined the effort, led by Jane and Paul Orfalea/the Audacious Foundation, and the Natalie Orfalea Foundation, with Lou Buglioli.

The Emergency Child Care Fund will initiate a quick and nimble response to the growing need for child care for Santa Barbara County employees working in professions that are essential to our community’s collective response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The United Way will act as fiscal agent for the project.

“Leaders in philanthropy are stepping up to meet the needs of our community in this difficult time in so many ways,” said Steve Ortiz, president/CEO of United Way. “This crisis requires the full engagement of our most essential workforce. We simply must make sure that their children are cared for in a safe environment while they keep us healthy and safe.”

A steering committee has been established to review applications in a thorough but timely manner so funds may be immediately deployed. Funding will help cover the cost of care and match expressed needs with approved, licensed and ready child care programs, so children will be cared for in a safe facility with attention to their health, wellbeing and social emotional needs.

Childcare workers will be trained by medical personnel on how to properly screen children for COVID-19 symptoms, as well as how to properly sanitize facilities on an ongoing basis and follow all recommended spacing and isolation procedures.

“The need for child care among front-line workers is real and immediate, and we must be ready for additional child care spaces as the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak continue to grow,” said Eileen Monahan, a local expert in child care who is helping lead the project.

“Our child care systems and programs locally have been so flexible in working with us to find the best solutions — everything from in-home family child care providers, to center-based preschools, to after-school programs or school districts,” she said. “We are so grateful for everyone’s willingness to step up and support essential workers.”

In less than a week since the program first got started, two programs have already opened; one in Lompoc and one in Santa Barbara. A third program is in development in Santa Maria and more are in the planning stages.

The Audacious Foundation and Natalie Orfalea Foundation invite other funders to join them in this critical, countywide effort. The fund has started with $500,000, but the needs are escalating quickly. Contributions can be directed to the United Way.

If you are an employer of essential workers or if you are a child care provider who wants to help, contact Eileen Monahan at To contribute toward the Emergency Child Care Fund, contact Ortiz at

To assist individuals and families, as well as organizations supporting community members affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, donations also can mbe made to the COVID-19 Joint Response Effort, a partnership between the Santa Barbara Foundation, the United Way of Santa Barbara County, the Hutton Parker Foundation and other leaders in philanthropy.

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