Frequently Asked Questions

Informational videos are available at the bottom of this page.

Updated 7/28/22

Notifications have been sent out to applicants who applied to the CIRCLE grant in April and May.

About CIRCLE Grants

What are CIRCLE grants? 

The State of Colorado is excited to announce a new grant program that will provide grants to child care providers and other community, education or governmental partners around the state. The Community Innovation and Resilience for Care and Learning Equity (CIRCLE) Grants will support innovative solutions to tough child care challenges that have been worsened by the pandemic.

What are CIRCLE grants trying to accomplish? 

CIRCLE grants will support projects that do one or more of the following:

How much money will be granted?

The state is distributing nearly $23 million in CIRCLE grants. For the licensed child care provider round of funding, individual grants will range from $25,000 to $150,000.

Where is the money from?
The Colorado General Assembly and Gov. Jared Polis created the grant program in 2021 from more than $275 million the state received through the federal American Rescue Plan and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act. The grant is administered by the Colorado Department of Early Childhood.

Who is Early Milestones Colorado?

The Colorado Department of Early Childhood selected the nonprofit Early Milestones Colorado to distribute the grants to child care providers and other community, education, or governmental partners. Early Milestones Colorado is a nonprofit organization that advances success for young children by accelerating innovation, the use of best practices, and systemic change.


Who is eligible to apply? 

For the August round of CIRCLE funding, only licensed child care providers are eligible to apply.

The grants are available to licensed child care providers committed to supporting early childhood in Colorado. They include:

    • All licensed child care providers, including preschools, family child care homes, child care centers, and school-based child care programs.
    • Child care providers who are considered “qualified exempt” under the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program. These providers include unlicensed family, friend and neighbor care providers who are set up to receive CCCAP payments.

Who is not eligible to apply?

This round is only for licensed child care providers (see above).

We are a community-based after-school provider that offers CCCAP slots—and we operate in school buildings. Should we apply as a CCCAP provider, a community-based organization, or a school district?

You should apply as a community-based licensed child care center.

Can my licensed child care center or family child care home submit more than one proposal?

We recommend one application per license number.

What is the difference between CIRCLE grants and Stabilization grants?

The CIRCLE grant program is a competitive grant program focused on addressing systemic challenges in child care and funding innovative solutions to improve outcomes for children and families. This final round for the CIRCLE grant opportunity is open to licensed (or CCCAP qualified exempt) child care providers. The Stabilization grant program is an entitlement grant program only for eligible licensed (or CCCAP qualified exempt) child care providers that provides funding to support operating and workforce expenses for the stabilization program, which is administered by MetrixIQ.


What is a Request for Proposals (RFP)?

A request for proposals is an invitation to apply for a grant. In the RFP, you will see clear instructions on how to apply, as well as the minimum information we need to consider your grant proposal.

 What do I need to include in my proposal?

The application process will be supportive and as simple as possible. In short, you will need:

    1. A description of the activities you propose that meet the requirements of the grant.
    2. The target population that will benefit from these activities.
    3. A description of any partnerships that you have or will establish to carry out your idea.
    4. A description of how your activities will meet the goals of the grant.
    5. A detailed budget for the activities you propose for the grant.

What are the application categories? 

We are seeking a variety of ideas for this grant opportunity and encourage all innovative ideas that fit into one or more of the following categories:

    • Improving the affordability of child care for families who aren’t served by the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program. Ideas may include reducing the cost of care for families through scholarships or subsidies.
    • Increasing access to child care for children from birth to age 3.
    • Ensuring equitable access for children with special needs
    • Ensuring equitable access for dual language learners
    • Supporting the health, mental health and well-being of children and families
    • Improving early childhood transitions from one setting to another or one service to another
    • Supporting workforce preparation
    • Strengthening business practices
    • Improving other early childhood outcomes or innovative practices. These might include ideas ranging from coaching models, early childhood mental health supports and supporting workers.

For the licensed child care provider round of CIRCLE funding, providers are encouraged to apply for one of six project ideas. Please see the main CIRCLE grant page for more information on these ideas.

Why should I apply?

The CIRCLE grants are a unique opportunity to advance innovative solutions to tough child care challenges that have been worsened by the pandemic. Your ideas matter and this round of funding is focused specifically on licensed child care providers with good ideas to develop a stronger and more supportive system for children, families, and early childhood professionals.

Why should I not apply?

There may be another grant opportunity that more closely fits your idea or needs. The Office of Early Childhood currently has several grant opportunities to support child care stability, quality improvement, licensing incentives, training, and professional development, and more. Click here for more information.

What if I’ve never applied for a grant before?

Good! Our goal is to reach and support people who don’t usually receive public or private funding and who have good ideas on how to make child care more accessible and equitable.

How much grant money should I request?

You should request a reasonable amount that you are able to spend in nine months. Take into consideration your capacity, the labor market, the cost of business in your area, and more. Think big, but also think smartly. We want you to be successful. For the licensed child care provider round of funding, individual grants range from $25,000 to $150,000.

Am I ready for a project like this?

You tell us — if you believe you can complete all the activities you propose in nine months, please tell us how. The idea does not need to be in action yet, but you should be able to explain how you will accomplish your project goals in nine months. If you are already working on the activity, you can tell us how long it has been in place and why this investment would help increase your project’s ability to improve child care access.

Are there any grant requirements?

Successful proposals will show a clear willingness to collect and share aggregate data (no personally identifiable information) to show progress during the grant period. Grantees will be asked to submit reports on their progress each quarter. They’ll also participate in any technical assistance to help them be successful, as well as participate in a learning community to share ideas with fellow grantees.


What kind of activities will be funded?

For the licensed child care provider round of CIRCLE funding, providers are encouraged to apply for one of six project ideas. Please see the main CIRCLE grant page for more information on these ideas.

What kind of activities will not be funded?

Since this is public federal funding, we cannot accept proposals for partisan political activities such as lobbying or campaigning. Additionally, capital construction costs and vehicles of any kind will not be covered.

What is an example of strengthening a providers’ business practices to be more financially sustainable?

This could take many forms. What is something you’ve always wanted to undertake or implement to make your child care business more efficient or stable? This could look like hiring an expert to overhaul an internal system like bookkeeping, food systems, or communications so you can spend more time or resources on providing child care. You know your business or program best–we just need to hear how it will help make child care in your community more stable and accessible to families in the long run.

What are some examples of supporting the health and well-being of children and families?

This could be an opportunity to implement wrap-around services for your families that help them with overall well-being. You could use this money to identify a program and implement it through training for yourself or your staff. Programs might include improving nutrition at your site, better supporting children with special needs or who are learning English, and more.

What are examples of boosting child care workforce preparation?

We welcome all ideas for supporting Colorado’s child care workforce. These might include training for specific skills, supporting individuals seeking education, or support for licensure.

Allowable Expenditures

Can I use grant funds for capital construction costs?

No, unfortunately these funds cannot be used for capital construction costs or vehicles. However, we encourage submissions for other start-up costs related to increasing access to child care. This might look like purchasing materials and recruiting, hiring, and training staff for a new program.

Can I apply for funds to travel to a conference out of state?

Yes, however out-of-state travel for conferences requires a higher bar to determine allowability. You will need to provide written justification in your application to establishing that the information in the PD you wish to attend out-of-state is not offered at trainings or conferences locally and what specifically about the proposed conferences is related to or especially key to the project that you have proposed. There is a $10,000 cap for out-of-state travel expenses. This is inclusive of flights, hotels, conference fees, meals, etc.

Would a down payment on a new building be eligible?

No, unfortunately federal funding rules don’t allow these grants to be used to purchase property, buildings, or vehicles.

Can this grant be used for before and after school child care programs?
Yes, before and after school programs can apply for this funding. However, although projects addressing child care for school aged children are allowable, CIRCLE focuses on early learning and care. To be competitive, projects serving school-aged children should take extra care to emphasize what is innovative and sets your project apart

Should I apply to this grant for air purification?

There will be a grant opportunity coming up specifically for air purification. The Indoor Air Quality Grant will be administered by MetrixIQ, the vendor who is administering the Child Care Stabilization Grant program. That grant opportunity is expected to open by Sept. 30, 2022.

Are nominal capital costs allowed if they are necessary to the implementation of an innovative idea that addresses one or more systemic challenge?
Unfortunately, the federal guidelines we follow say the money can’t be used for construction or purchase of new facilities, vehicles, and major renovations. For the licensed child care provider round of CIRCLE funding, projects with a minor renovation focus are not eligible.

Can I request funds for a playground?

For the licensed child care provider round of CIRCLE funding, playground projects are not eligible.

Can this grant be used to provide subgrants to child care providers for operations?

Unfortunately, no. The purpose of this grant is to address systemic challenges in child care and funding innovative solutions to improve outcomes for children and families. It is not a grant program to fund recurring operations.

Is sub-contracting allowed?

Yes, subcontracts are allowed for services provided to the program.

Is food for gatherings or meetings with families an allowable expense?
Yes, with limitations. The food expenses should be related to the project, and you should clearly explain how it advances the goals of your proposal. You will also need prior approval before spending money in this area so we can make sure the expenses can be fully reimbursed.

Does a shed or other external small structure for storing toys and equipment be an allowed expense?
For the licensed child care provider round, sheds and external storage structures are not eligible.

Are shading structures or pergolas for backyards so children are able to spend more time outside an allowable expense?
For the licensed child care provider round, shading structures and pergolas are not eligible.

Is purchasing hypoallergenic carpeting for children with asthma and allergies an allowable expense? How about sinks for an infant a toddler room?
For the licensed child care provider round, carpeting is not eligible.

Can we hire a grant writer to help raise fund for a capital expense, and/or for planning to increase capacity for infant and toddler care?
In general, these funds should be used for program expenses only. Grant writing is generally considered an administrative expense. You would need to demonstrate how hiring a grant writer or planning consultant is a programmatic expense—and how it advances the goals of your proposal.

We had an idea to offer discounts and free care via scholarships to families at our schools. I do not, however, see a line on the budget that this expense could be calculated. Would this be an acceptable use of funding?

No, the only eligible scholarship programs would be those mentioned in the six project ideas above. For example, temporary scholarship support to families who have applied for and are awaiting CCAP approval or temporary scholarships with case management supports to assist eligible families in getting CCAP would be examples acceptable scholarship projects.

Are pavers (or other minor improvements) eligible?

For the licensed child care provider round, pavers and minor improvements are not eligible.

If I get a grant, can I use it to pay for expenses that have already happened?

The CIRCLE grant funds can only be used for project expenses that happen during the grant period (October 1, 2022 – June 30, 2023).

Can I use CIRCLE grant funding for the purchase of vehicles including buses, vans, cars, trucks, etc.?

No, these funds cannot be used to purchase vehicles.


What constitutes a “partnership,” and what are the roles of the partners? 

We are looking for active partnerships that support child care innovation and access. Generally, these will include partnerships that have already been working to address challenges in your community or across the state. We believe that part of what makes innovative projects successful is the shared commitment to change and the connections and ideas continuously exchanged among experts and people with varied skills, resources, and experiences. The roles that partners play in your project will vary based upon need, approach, etc. Proposals that demonstrate partnership with racially and ethnically diverse communities will be prioritized.

Are partnerships required?

Partnerships are encouraged but not required. Grantees may be connected with others doing similar work in order to accelerate or spark innovation. Proposals do not need to include letters of support from partners, local champions, or other experts.

Intent to Apply

For the licensed child care provider round of CIRCLE funding, providers are not required to fill out the intent to apply response.

Project Selection

How will projects be selected for awards? 

All proposals will be reviewed, scored, and discussed by a diverse panel of subject matter experts from across Colorado.

What are the criteria for selection? 

In general, we are looking for innovative projects and partnerships that have the most potential to be implemented and achieve impact within the nine months of project funding and that align with one of the six project ideas mentioned here.

Successful proposals will define a target population that will benefit from the project and include clear strategies and timelines for activities. We are also looking for proposals for clear statements of outcomes (what result is expected), sustainability (how the impact will continue beyond the project), equity (how the project will remove barriers for populations with the most challenges), and community role (how your program serves children and families in the community).

Grant Awards and Future Funding

Is there a total amount of funding allocated to each category? 

No. Selection will be based on the projects with innovative ideas and the potential for making an impact.

How many awards will be made? 

We anticipate making 15-25 awards. The number of awards depends on the type and size of awards funded. Grants will be selected that meet the criteria in the request for proposals and show greatest potential for change in these areas:

    • Make child care more affordable.
    • Fill gaps in infant and toddler care.
    • Strengthen child care providers’ business practices to make them financially sustainable.
    • Support the health and well-being of children and families.
    • Boost child care workforce preparation.
    • Contribute to the health and learning of all children, including those with special needs and dual-language learners.

How will I receive the grants – before, during or after activities?

This grant is a reimbursable grant, which means the grantee will receive funds after providing basic documentation of an expenses. More detail to come.

Who would we be contracting with for this grant?
All the contracts with grantees will be made with Early Milestones Colorado.

Application Support

How can I get help on my application?

Early Milestones Colorado staff are here to help you submit a successful application. We are receiving hundreds of applications so please first access the support materials like this FAQ. If your questions aren’t answered there, please contact or call 720-853-3512.

Can I see the full application before I apply?

Yes, you can see the full application starting August 1. We will make sure to link it here as well as soon as it is available.

Application pointers

Here are some suggestions from Early Milestones staff after reviewing applications in the first round:

    • Applications with budgets over $150,000 or with unreasonable requests won’t be reviewed. Please keep budgets below the maximum and ensure the requested amount can honestly be spent within the one-year grant window. An excessive amount to be spent at the end of the grant (example 200k in June 2023) would be considered risky. We want to ensure the money is spent in the time window we have.
    • Don’t forget to include a narrative for your budget proposal. Our reviewers need to see what is being purchased to ensure they are allowable expenses. For example, $20,000 for “supplies” is not enough information. We need to know what kind of supplies and for what purpose.
    • Applications with missing fields can’t be reviewed—make sure you fill out the application completely.
    • If you are struggling to sign your application, please use the mouse or keypad, not the keyboard (initials) or an electronic signature. If you are using a Mac, try using two fingers on the keypad.
    • On the last page of the application you’ll see a place to upload a text or Word documents. Please note in your text boxes that you have an additional attachment.
    • Accidentally submitted to soon or forgot something? It is best to resubmit your application and send a note to or call 720-853-3512 to request the first application be deleted.

Do I need a license number to apply as a center?

Yes, you need to be a licensed child care provider to apply in this round.

Would a new child care center be eligible?

If you have a license number you are eligible to apply. Note that start-up costs (materials, equipment) must meet the requirements of the grant. Applications must focus on equity and how they will address the systemic challenges listed in the grant.

Can I use my own budget?

For the licensed child care provider round of funding, please use the provided budget template. You will need to provide a detailed budget of what you are requesting, and your narrative should speak to why you are requesting it. A list of just items you’d like will not be sufficient but how you will use those items to address the systemic challenges you identified as barriers. The grants are designed for big and small ideas.

Can you provide feedback on an application?

Unfortunately, no. We are unable to provide specific feedback on applications.

What is technical assistance for grantees?

Technical assistance is provided by Milestones to help grantees implement their projects. For example, we may meet with you to discuss learnings from your project such as what’s going well and what could be adjusted for improvement. Milestones staff may suggest technical assistance such as collaborative learning communities, discussion groups within a cohort of similar innovations, etc.

Do you anticipate you will need Early Milestones to facilitate connections with early childhood partners in Colorado?

We are eager to make connections among grantees and early childhood organizations in the state. Please let us know if you would benefit from being a part of a learning community or if you would welcome assistance when things aren’t going as planned.

Should I submit one or two applications for two different ideas?

For the licensed child care provider round, you may submit only one application.

Key Dates

When is the grant period?

All awarded applicants will have from October 1, 2022, through June 30, 2023, to receive funding for and complete their grant activities.

When are proposals due?

    • Submission Deadline:  For the licensed child care provider round of CIRCLE funding, proposals must be submitted by 5:00 p.m. MST on August 26, 2022.

For More Information

Who should I contact for more information? 

More information can be found at, including the Request for Proposals; required proposal documents; and a link to submit further questions about this opportunity.

Have a question that isn’t answered here? Please send it to: or call 720-853-3512.

This list will be updated frequently as we receive questions so please check back to see if your questions have been answered.


Have Another Question?

Submit your question here.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Informational Videos

About CIRCLE Grants

Navigating the Application