A local nonprofit child care organization is hoping to build a new facility in Pullman that will make it easier for low-income families to access its services.

The Community Child Care Center will use a nearly $63,000 grant from the Washington Department of Commerce to begin the early stages of potentially building a new facility next to the Riverview Apartments just south of Pullman Regional Hospital.

The Riverview Apartments, managed by the Community Action Center, provide affordable housing to low-income and homeless people. Jeff Guyett, executive director of the CAC, said this partnership with the Community Child Care Center could provide easier access to early learning services and child care for families in those apartments.

“We want to be able to create that close proximity,” he said.

Mary McDonald, executive director of the Community Child Care Center, said the community will benefit from increased child care capacity, specifically for low to moderate income residents. She said the new facility will help eliminate transportation barriers while offering affordable publicly subsidized child care.

McDonald also said the Community Child Care Center has outgrown its Pullman location in the basement of St. James Episcopal Church and a new facility will allow it to expand its capacity.

The center serves approximately 275 children throughout Whitman County and runs another child care center in Colfax.

It offers preschool programs that are free to income-eligible families, including the state-funded Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program.

McDonald said the Washington Department of Commerce grant will help fund a study to assess the challenges Whitman County families face in finding child care. Surveys for the study will likely be sent out to the public in the next two months, she said.

“I know there’s needs in the community,” McDonald said. “I know there’s gaps in services.”

The grant will also help fund a feasibility study for the new facility. Both studies are scheduled to be completed in the next six months.The project will be overseen by a committee made up of people with education, child care and social services backgrounds. The Community Child Care Center is also partnering with Washington State University’s Social and Economic Sciences Research Center and the university’s Rural Communities Design Initiative.

McDonald said the COVID-19 pandemic has hurt child care programs, but Whitman County was already experiencing a “dwindling, downward trend” of access to child care.

She said many child care businesses struggle because they are labor-intensive, costly to run and expensive for young families to afford.

That is why more programs should be publicly funded to ensure they are sustainable, she said.

Anthony Kuipers can be reached at akuipers@dnews.com.

Recommended for you