Sara Innamorato laid out a new administration priority yesterday, allocating $500,000 to a pilot program for subsidizing child care in one of her first big moves since taking office.

The new Allegheny County executive said the region faces an “urgent crisis” in child care while announcing the funds during a tour of the Shady Lane School daycare center in Point Breeze North.

Innamorato said thousands of local families may be unable to afford care for their children in the absence of government help, which could pull parents out of the workforce and hamper economic growth.

“Child care is such a priority of my administration,” Innamorato said. “…The work will not stop today.”

The $500,000 boosts an existing county program that subsidizes child care for families making twice to three times the federal poverty level who also meet work or education eligibility requirements. The program – Allegheny County Child Care Matters – began in April 2022 using $5 million in American Rescue Plan Act [ARPA] funds allocated by the federal government to prop up day care services. 

So far, the program has subsidized care costs for 356 children. This week’s top-up will usher in 28 more who make up the current wait list, leaving some leftover funds for an unspecified number of additional children. The administration believes as many as 15,000 children may fall within the eligibility bracket.

Experts say high operational costs and staffing shortages prompted by low pay and high stress have strained the child care sector since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Pennsylvania now has nearly 600 fewer facilities than in 2020, with a net loss of 18 in Allegheny County.

The county established the Department of Children Initiatives [DCI] in 2021 to shore up an industry reeling from the pandemic and got to work distributing relief funds directly to care providers. Out of that later flowed the Child Care Matters program in conjunction with the Early Learning Resource Center.

a woman in a blue coat plays with children around a table
Allegheny County Executive Sara Innamorato plays with children at Shady Lane School day care center in Point Breeze North on Jan. 10. (Photo by Jamie Wiggan/PublicSource)

While some child care professionals, such as Shady Lane Executive Director Lindsey Ramsey, say DCI has helped day care centers stay afloat, others in the industry are concerned the gaps remain wide and fear what may await when federal funds dry up.

DCI had spent less than a third of its $20 million ARPA-funded startup budget as of December, and must divvy out the remainder by the end of 2024 or return it to the federal government. 

Innamorato yesterday emphasized she appreciates the scale of the challenge and is committed to applying county resources to solutions.

“We are going to be meeting with businesses, nonprofits, our state and federal government and the foundation community to discuss a more unified and holistic approach to subsidized childcare for working families in Allegheny County and support the provider workforce,” she said.

“It is not just an issue for young families. It’s an economic issue for our whole county.” 

Correction: A previous version of this story mischaracterized the income qualifications for the Child Care Matters program.

Jamie Wiggan is Deputy Editor at Public Source. He can be reached at

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Jamie began his journalism career at a local news startup in McKees Rocks, where he learned the trade covering local school boards and municipalities, and left four years later as editor-in-chief. He comes...