RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — North Carolina is spending $150 million in COVID-19 relief funds on some teachers across the state through the end of 2023.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday that its division of child development and early education will use those funds to continue grants to help boost pay and benefits for preschool and day care teachers.

That division has already distributed $655 million in child-care stabilization grants to more than 4,200 child-care centers and family child-care homes across the state, helping what it describes as “long under-paid” programs.

The total $805 million is designed to help programs rebound from pandemic-related business losses.

While the funding is running out, North Carolina health officials say those programs are still struggling, so the division is using discretionary American Rescue Plan Act money earmarked for workforce initiates to fund the pay increases.

The agency says those grants won’t be large enough to fully replace the stabilization grants.

“This extension of compensation grants is another important step toward recognizing the crucial work of early educators and helping child care programs stay open for the families who count on them,” said Susan Gale Perry, the agency’s chief deputy secretary for opportunity and well-being. “At the same time, we can’t rely on temporary solutions; we need long-term investment to strengthen the early care and learning workforce and ensure access to high-quality care. This workforce is fundamental to our economy and foundational to the well-being of children and families.”

Early care and learning teachers care for more than 265,000 children each year in North Carolina, state leaders say.