COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) – Gov. Henry McMaster announced Tuesday morning that $19.9 million will be provided for education and workforce training from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund.

According to a news release, the grants will be distributed between the Department of Social Services (DSS), the South Carolina Technical College System, the Office of First Steps and the Department of Education, and will provide job training, give educational resources to foster children and prepare children in poverty for kindgergarten.

“Through this pandemic, South Carolina has remained a place of enormous opportunity, and we must continue to work to create these opportunities for our children and those seeking employment,” McMaster said. “These targeted grants will train thousands of South Carolinians for high-demand jobs and provide the groundwork for our next generation to excel in the workplace.”

The following is a breakdown of the investments from the news release:

Department of Social Services – $4,913,800

  • to address the educational needs of foster care children and youth in group homes. Foster care children were the state’s most vulnerable children before the pandemic. The pandemic has only exacerbated the educational needs of these children. The award will fund the following for the approximately 600 foster care children and youth in our 74 group homes:
    • Purchase and deploy electronic devices to group home settings at $225,000;
    • Increase bandwidth for the 74 group homes at $88,800;
    • Provide tutoring services for children and youth in group home settings at $4,320,000; and
    • Fund special education services for children and youth with disabilities in group home settings at $280,000.

South Carolina Technical College System – $8,000,000

  • to provide training programs for 3,100 adults in such career areas as: Healthcare, Computer Technology & Information Technology, Advanced Manufacturing, Distribution & Logistics, and Criminal Justice & Corrections. “The demand for non-credit, continuing education programs has increased due to the pandemic. South Carolinians negatively impacted by COVID-19 rely on our technical colleges to provide retraining programs that prepare them for employment in high-demand fields.”

Early Childhood Education – $7 million

  • for expanded day or summer programs for children eligible for the full-day 4K program.
  • there are two state agencies that administer the full-day 4K program for at-risk children in 61 school districts in our state: the Office of First Steps to School Readiness and the South Carolina Department of Education.  Currently, children who are Medicaid-eligible or whose family income is 185 percent or less of the federal poverty level can attend a full-day 4K program at no cost to the family. Families have the option of choosing a private child care or a public school.

According to officials, due to the pandemic, enrollment in the full-day 4K programs is down. In private settings, enrollment is down 12%. In public schools, the decline is at 23%.

Gov. McMaster said, “We think these investments will help us make a big step forward.”

Department of Social Services Director Michael Leach said, “This intentional investment in the education of children and youth in foster care will help close educational achievement gaps and lead to improved outcomes for their futures.”

Officials said the extended day and summer programs for these at-risk children who will enter kindergarten in the fall of 2021 and in the fall of 2022 will ensure more students will be ready for kindergarten.

South Carolina First Steps Executive Director Georgia Mjartan said, “This will allow more families who need a full time work day program to be able to get that need met when they’re children are in a high quality education program.”

The allocation of the funds will be $5.0 million to the Office of First Steps and $2.0 million to the South Carolina Department of Education. Throughout the history of the program, private providers have provided more extended day and summer programs to children than public schools. If there is more interest in this program in public schools, additional funds will be provided.

Director of Governmental Affairs for the Palmetto State Teachers Association Patrick Kelly said, “We think these are wise targeted investments that are going to address some of the right now needs resulting from the pandemic and also have ripple effects for students long beyond after this pandemic is over”

According to the release, South Carolina’s share of GEER funds was $48.4 million and the remain balance will be awarded before the May 11, 2021 deadline.

You can watch the full announcement below: