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
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
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.