Voices’ Blog

Economic Stimulus Package for VA Child Care

Posted:  -  By: Emily Griffey

On Wednesday, April 15, Governor Ralph Northam and First Lady Pam Northam announced plans to use $70 million in federal economic stimulus funds to support child care programs. The plans allow child care programs to seek immediate relief to cover staff salaries while closed and to increase state support for programs staying open to serve essential personnel. The announcement mirrors the requests early childhood advocates made to the Northam Administration on March 31. And the plans go even further waiving parent co-pays and providing flexibility for schools to offer care to students of essential personnel while closed. The funds are included in proposed amendments to the FY20 budget that will be considered by the General Assembly at the April 22 Reconvened Session.

Instructions and application materials were distributed to all child care providers already known to the Virginia Department of Social Services– licensed centers, family child care homes, religious-exempt preschools, and others.

How Child Can Programs Can Receive Stimulus Funds

  • Closed programs are asked to submit manual attendance records for children receiving state subsidies while closed.
  • Programs remaining open are asked to attest that they are following heightened safety procedures and that they are serving essential personnel. Grants will be awarded on a formula based on a $25 per child, per week for half of the program’s licensed capacity during the time they remain open.  Any program, even if they do not currently enroll students receiving state subsidy, can seek funds. Details on how currently open centers can apply for grants are here.
  • Public school divisions wanting to seek funding to provide emergency child care can email superintendent@doe.virginia.gov.
  • Programs will automatically receive the parent co-pay portion of child care subsidy payments during April, May and June.

Immediate Relief May Not Satisfy Every Concern

While child care programs are fortunate to see some immediate relief and support as essential workforce, this stimulus payment may not satisfy every concern. Child care providers still lack access to PPE and cleaning supplies. With uncertainty about the timeline for returning to “normal” activity, planned payments through June raise questions about what happens after that time. And, a “one size fits all” payment based on a formula of $25 per student does not factor in the higher costs of living in Northern Virginia to provide child care services.

What Early Care Advocates Can Do

  • Thank the Governor, First Lady of Virginia, Commissioner of Social Services and Superintendent of Public Instruction for taking quick action to provide resources. Post a thank you on social media and even include children or educators in your program.
  • Let your state delegate and senator know that they are helping to provide some financial stimulus to your program through their approval of the budget.
  • Get ready for more advocacy! Congress will likely act on another stimulus package where additional support for child care will be on the table.
  • Document and share any gaps that still exist. Child care providers are also encouraged to seek other stimulus funds such as Payroll Protection Loans, unemployment insurance for self-employment, small business grants and philanthropic donations. A guide to navigate these offerings is provided by the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation. When these funds are still not enough to cover costs, please document where you are continuing to see financial instability.

These actions are important to stabilize the industry but by themselves do no do enough to provide financial security for an essential, but often low-paid workforce. They do not address how financially strapped families may afford child care in the future. Child care providers and parents facing financial insecurity are encouraged to apply for health care, nutrition, cash assistance and child care benefits through the Commonhelp portal. While child care subsidy eligibility is tied to employment and income levels, the eligibility level for child care assistance is higher than other benefits. If a family is recently eligible for Medicaid assistance they are likely eligible for child care assistance as well.

More information and FAQs for providers are available at childcareva.com

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