Policy Strategies & Innovations Link copied!

Innovation Name Innovation Type Innovation Subtype Features at a Glance Strategy Summary
Child Care Creation Grant Program Expansion Physical Space and Facilities

One-time funding

In 2022, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development launched the Child Care Creation Grant Program using Community Development Block Grant CARES Act funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The program aims to expand child care capacity in Tennessee by providing $9 million in grants with a maximum award of $500,000. Only non-home-based providers are eligible for funding, which can be used for the following: acquisition of property, building, or structure; rehabilitation of facilities; purchase of equipment; and clearance or demolition of structures.

Learn More: child care creation grant program

Source: Greater Nashville Regional Council. (n.d.). Child care creation grant program.

Child Care WAGE$ Tennessee Workforce Bonuses and Supplemental Pay Professional Learning

Supplements range from $600 to $7,800, depending on educational attainment

Started in 2019, the Child Care WAGE$ Tennessee program rewards early childhood educators with financial incentives based on education and employment continuity in hopes of increasing teacher retention. First funded by the City of Chattanooga over a six-month period, the program awarded $75,000 in supplements to 73 educators from 29 centers. The program was then expanded statewide by the Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS). WAGE$ has awarded more than $4 million in salary supplements across Tennessee to educators. To be eligible, child care professionals should earn at or below the income cap of $20 per hour, and they must work with children ages birth to 5 at least 10 hours a week in a licensed child care program. Levels of salary supplements are specific to the educator’s level of education, and supplements are issued in two six-month direct-deposit payments following completion with the same child care program. Through its department of human services, Tennessee also offers various professional development to early educators, including trainings (both in person and online), a registry, a resource-sharing platform for directors and owners, and tech coaching. WAGE$ is now funded through TDHS and is administered by Signal Centers.

This program is part of the national Child Care WAGE$ project.

Learn more: Child Care Wage$ Tennessee


Child Care Wage$ Tennessee. (n.d.). About Us.

Child Care Wage$ Tennessee. (2022). Fact Sheet.

Tennessee Department of Human Services. (n.d.). Child Care Incentives, Grants and Supports.

Tennessee Department of Human Services. (n.d.). TNPAL, Training and Professional Development Resources.

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Demographics Link copied!

State population

7,051,339 Source U.S. Census, 2022

Rural %

33.8% Source U.S. Census, 2020

Urban %

66.2% Source U.S. Census, 2020

Number of children age 0-4

402,350 Source KIDS COUNT, 2021

Poverty levels – children 0-8 below 200% poverty

43% Source KIDS COUNT, 2021

Median family income among households with children

$73,300.00 Source KIDS COUNT, 2021

Unemployment rate

3.5% Source U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, December 2022

Unemployment rate of parents

3% Source KIDS COUNT, 2021

Children under age 6 with all available parents in the labor force

65% Source KIDS COUNT, 2021

Children living in households with a high housing cost burden

26% Source KIDS COUNT, 2021

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Child population by race and ethnicity Source KIDS COUNT, 2021

Race and Ethnicity

  • American Indian and Alaska Native (.5%)
  • Asian (2%)
  • Black or African American (19%)
  • Hispanic or Latino (11%)
  • Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander (.5%)
  • Two or More Races (4%)
  • White, not Hispanic or Latino (64%)
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Political Landscape Link copied!

Source: Ballotpedia 2023

Early Childhood Education Programs Link copied!

Public pre-K program name

Tennessee Voluntary Pre-K (VPK) Source: NIEER 2023

Universal or targeted pre-K policy

Targeted Pre-K Policy (4-Year-Olds) Source: NIEER 2023

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Percent of 3-Year-Old Children Enrolled in Public Early Childhood Education Programs Source: NIEER 2023


  • 3-year-old children enrolled in state-funded public pre-K (1%)
  • 3-year-old children enrolled in Head Start (9%)
  • Other/none (89%)
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Percent of 4-Year-Old Children Enrolled in Public Early Childhood Education Programs Source: NIEER 2023


  • 4-year-old children enrolled in state-funded public pre-K (19%)
  • 4-year-old children enrolled in Head Start (6%)
  • Other/none (75%)
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Workforce Link copied!

2017–2019 Median Hourly Wages Source CSCCE 2018, 2020


  • Child care workers
  • Preschool teachers
  • Preschool or child care center directors
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Funding Sources Link copied!

Federal and State Early Childhood Education Funding (in millions) Source First Five Years Fund, 2022

Funding source

  • Head Start and Early Head Start Funding ($178.9)
  • CCDBG & Mandatory Funds ($201.8)
  • CCDBG State Match ($13.1)
  • CCDBG COVID Relief Allocations – CARES, CRRSE, ARPA (CCDF & Stabilization) ($1200)
  • State-Funded Pre-K ($82.4)
  • MIECHV ($9.9)
  • IDEA Part C ($13.7)
  • IDEA Part B, Sec 619 ($11)
  • TANF Early Learning and Care Expenditures ($140.2)
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Funding acronyms: CCDBG: Child Care and Development Block Grant; CARES Act: Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act; CRRSE Act: Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations; ARPA: American Rescue Plan Act; CCDF: Child Care and Development Fund; MIECHV: Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program; IDEA: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; TANF: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

The COVID Funding Cliff

All federal COVID relief allocations, including funding authorized by the CARES, CRRSE, and ARPA bills, must be fully spent by September 2024. An analysis from the Century Foundation shows this loss of funds could cause more than 3 million children to lose access to child care nationwide – including nearly 90,000 children in Tennessee.