Stabilize Child Care with the CARES Act Stimulus
As COVID-19 continues to present challenges to the child care community, we are looking for ways tht policymakers can respond. On March 27th, Congress included $3.5 billion in additional resources for child care programs in the stimulus package, the CARES Act. This will result in an additional $67 million for Virginia allocated to our Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG).
Virginia uses federal CCDBG dollars to support child care subsidy, licensing and quality improvement. States have a lot of choices to make with these federal dollars, and a lot of flexibility to meet the needs of working families and child care programs.
The stimulus provides additional flexibility with an emphasis on responding to the COVID-19 crisis. Funds can now be used to:
- Continue payment for child care subsidy upon decreased enrollment or temporary closure.
- Provide financial assistance for child care regardless of income for essential personnel such as health care workers and emergency responders.
- Purchase emergency cleaning supplies and sanitation activities in response to COVID-19.
Virginia policymakers must make decisions about how these additional funds will be used. Voices has heard from home-based family child care providers, nonprofits,and center-based providers that there is an immediate need to ensure that these financial resources are available to support the child care community.
Child care stakeholders shared their feedback with Voices. Advocates ask that the state use federal Child Care and Development Block Grant dollars to:
- Continue to pay the state’s portion of financial assistance for income eligible families who choose not to send their children to care in line with stay-at-home orders or for child care programs that choose to close. The state should act to continue to pay providers at least for March and April.
- The existing caseload for child care assistance payments would already be accounted for in the current state funds before the recent federal increase.
- Providers needing to pay staff or pay rent/overhead were anticipating to receive these state payments during March and April and will now not receive that revenue unless Virginia acts to support child care programs.
- In the cases where programs are open but parents are choosing to keep their children at home, currently the state requires the parent to call their child care program every day to report the absence. This is an onerous task on parents during a stressful time and makes the income more unpredictable for providers.
- Pay a differential to programs modifying their practices to serve children safely.
- As many child care programs modify their practices to implement rigorous cleaning protocols and provide safe care for children they have encountered additional costs. From the costs for additional thermometers and staff to screen children, to cleaning supplies and additional cleaning staff, to pay differentials for staff who are putting their own health and safety at risk, center-based programs estimate an additional $75 per child, per day to modify their practices.
- While the federal funds provide additional resources, it is the state’s option as to what type of differential to offer and which programs qualify. Other states have controlled this by determining which programs would remain open and asking families to qualify as essential personnel. Some states have paid a weekly stipend to programs serving essential personnel while others have increased child care subsidy rates for participating providers.
- Provide funding and resources to access personal protective gear and cleaning supplies to ensure the safety of the child care workforce in programs that remain open.
- Many early childhood educators work in the field because they love working with children. However, even the most dedicated workforce will have some fears and concerns about working in close proximity with children every day, uncertain if they have been exposed to Coronavirus.
While there are difficult choices to make, one choice is simple: Virginia must support child care programs now or we risk them closing and not being able to re-open.
Where the state can act to stabilize the child care industry it should and should act quickly. Continuing to pay providers that serve economically disadvantaged families, and offering additional resources to programs following more rigorous safety protocols, are essential steps to support the child care industry.
Join us in asking the state to prioritize a swift response to stabilize child care providers. Please share this message with your state and local elected officials.
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