Chattanooga 2.0 and early childhood leaders from its Early Matters action team recently announced a third round of the Quality Matters Fund (QMF) that will benefit both child care providers and early childhood educators. The focus of this QMF round is on the recruitment and retention of child care teachers in Hamilton County. 

This year, funds will be distributed in three categories: dedicated substitutes for child care providers, last-dollar college tuition assistance, and a workforce training pilot. Applications for the dedicated substitutes are now open and close on April 6. Providers interested in employing a substitute and educators interested in becoming a substitute should visit to apply. 

“The child care industry is experiencing a staffing shortage due to the pandemic and its lingering impact that is unlike anything we’ve experienced before,” Katie Harbison, co-chair of Early Matters and president, CEO, Chambliss Center for Children said.

“We know that there aren’t enough childcare seats for all the children under five in Hamilton County, but because of the staffing shortage, many of us are operating below capacity and don’t have enough teachers to open all our classrooms.” 

Ten agencies will be selected to receive a dedicated child care teacher substitute whose sole purpose will be to fill in for teachers who need to take a day off. Many child care teachers do not receive paid time off and are, therefore, not afforded the flexibility to stay home with their own sick children or attend a doctor’s appointment. When staff are not out, the substitutes will help reduce the adult-to-child ratio in the classroom. 

Early childhood educators and both nonprofit and for-profit child care agencies are encouraged to apply for the QMF dedicated substitute pilot. The pilot will last for one year and substitutes will work 30 hours per week at $13 per hour. Priority will be given to child care agency applicants that serve economically disadvantaged children as well as those in the 37404, 37406, and 37412 zip codes. Technical assistance webinars will be held on Monday, March 27 at 3pm and 6pm. 

Early Matters advocates that positive experiences for young children – especially within high-quality early childhood programming – are essential for child health, learning, and overall well-being. Recruitment and retention through the QMF is one of many strategies included in the 2025 Early Childhood Action Plan that Early Matters members released in October.

“Investing in child care supports the workforce of today and simultaneously ensures children are at the same starting line when they enter Kindergarten,” said Karitsa Jones, co-lead of the access to quality child care working group and City of Chattanooga administrator for the Department of Early Learning.

“With this grant, Chattanooga 2.0 will also be tracking and evaluating the use of funds and their impact on recruitment and retention, so leaders know better how to support the child care workforce.”

The Quality Matters Fund first distributed funds in Spring 2020 and then again in February 2021. The 2023 funds are made possible by a federal grant from the City of Chattanooga, fiscal management by the United Way of Greater Chattanooga, and the oversight of a Chattanooga 2.0 Quality Matters Committee. 

Previous rounds of the fund offered local child care providers the opportunity to make capital improvements in an effort to increase the number of available quality seats.

Details about how child care teachers across Hamilton County can apply for last-dollar college tuition assistance will be released in the coming weeks. 

Early Matters is an action team of Chattanooga 2.0. To learn more about this and other early childhood strategies in the 2025 Early Childhood Action plan that are working together to improve third-grade literacy and math, visit

Originally published on Chattanooga 2.0’s blog, here.