Smart Start Workforce Grants

The Illinois Department of Human Services Division of Early Childhood is thrilled to introduce the Smart Start Workforce Grants, a dynamic initiative aimed at enhancing quality and bolstering workforce development in child care programs.  These grants signify a commitment to providing stable and predictable funding, enabling programs to invest in quality staff and ensure consistent operations.  Eligible licensed family child care, group homes and child care centers will receive ongoing funds in advance, facilitating the implementation of higher wages for early education and care professionals, thereby attracting more talent and meeting parents’ needs at affordable rates.

Governor Pritzker’s investment in Smart Start Workforce Grants further underscores a commitment to early childhood education and care.  These grants represent the next phase in Illinois’ journey towards supporting the child care workforce, building upon previous investments such as the Child Care Restoration Grants and Strengthen and Grow Child Care Grants, all aimed at fostering a resilient and thriving early childhood education and care sector.

Visit here to quickly find information on grant eligibility, grant award amounts, program eligibility, the wage floor, grant schedule, and how to prepare.  If you have questions or need technical assistance, please contact Heather Schichner at or 309-686-3750 Option 9.