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  1. Sounding the Alarm: New Data Reveals Impact of COVID-19 Hardships

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    Guest Blog Post Contributed by John R. Morgan, Ph.D., former Voices Executive Director and current Chewning Research Fellow at the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation

    Widening racial-ethnic disparities likely to harm children of color

    Data is accumulating showing that economic and familial hardships associated with the pandemic are experienced more acutely by Black and Hispanic families. These hardships are of the same nature as those associated more generally with child poverty; and it is clear that racial-ethnic child poverty disparities in Virginia are already substantial and persistent. The latest data available on the KIDS COUNT Data Center indicate poverty rates of 28.0 for Black children, 19.8 for Hispanic children and 8.9 percent respectively for white children.

    Children of color, already more likely to experience child poverty and its associated hardship burdens, are now faced with an extra and similarly disproportionate burden delivered by the pandemic. The most likely outcome of this doubled-up hardship burden is a worsening of pre-pandemic racial-ethnic inequities. It is also likely that these inequities will be most prominent in education and health. Looming on the horizon then is the highly likely and entirely unwelcome prospect of the worsening of already intolerable inequities which greatly disadvantage children of color, including:

    • education achievement gaps (PALS-K scores, SOL scores, SAT scores; and rates of retention, suspension/expulsion, drop-out, graduation, college acceptance)
    • inequities in health status (prevalence of asthma, obesity, low birthweight; inadequate prenatal care; food insecurity)

    Data on COVID health outcomes are of primary immediate concern. Infection rates, hospitalization rates and mortality are all substantially higher for Black and Hispanic-Latino than White populations nationally and in Virginia.

    Disparities in COVID-caused household hardships

    More recently, data from the Census Bureau’s COVID-19 Household Pulse Survey reveal that the burden of COVID-related family hardships falls most heavily on Black and Hispanic households. This disproportionate impact threatens to put at risk the long-term well-being of their children. Much of the available data is national yet it is plausible that national findings will be mirrored in Virginia to a great extent. Some prominent national indicators include:

    • 51 percent of households with children reported an adult in the household had lost employment income. (Pulse Survey August 2020)
    • 58 percent of Hispanic and 53 percent of Black households saw a loss of employment income since March, versus 39 percent of white households. (Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies)
    • 59 percent of Black households, 55 percent of Latino households, and 33 percent of white households reported it was “somewhat difficult” or “very difficult” to pay for usual household expenses. (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)
    • 18 percent of Black households, 17 percent of Latino households, and 7 percent of white households reported that their household did not get enough to eat. (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)

    The minimal state-level data available so far align with these national findings. In a recent report, the Commonwealth Institute estimated that 24 percent of children in Virginia live in a household that is not getting enough to eat or is behind on housing payments. Their analysis underscored data indicating that people of color were feeling economic hardships more acutely. For example, one of every eight Virginia workers who identify as Black, Latinx, or Asian/Pacific Islander were unemployed this summer or temporarily laid off without pay, compared to one of every 19 non-Hispanic white workers.

    It is evident, therefore, that compared to their white counterparts, Black, and Hispanic children in Virginia are more likely to be exposed to potentially harmful pandemic-related hardships. This threatens to substantially widen existing troublesome disparities and present ever-greater risk to the well-being of Virginia’s children of color.

    What makes these findings so alarming?

    There is strong scientific consensus, cited in sources above, that the economic hardships and familial stressors associated with child poverty can compromise child development and lead to troublesome outcomes. Research also identifies the parameters that influence the likelihood of such harmful effects. Risk of harm is both additive and cumulative – as the number and/or duration of hardship exposures increase, so does the likelihood of harm.

    Applying those parameters to the circumstances faced by Virginia’s children of color, alarms are sounding on both counts. As data reviewed above indicates, Black and Hispanic children are more likely than white children to be exposed to a greater number of hardships during the pandemic (as they were before the pandemic); and pandemic-induced hardships are more acute and severe for Black and Hispanic families, meaning a longer duration before they can fully recover to pre-pandemic levels. The net effect: the pandemic will widen critical Black-white and Hispanic-white disparities, especially in the health and education domains, and likely for an extended period. This will be a step backward, resulting in diminished opportunity and greater disadvantage for children of color.

    Policy implications: Will history be repeated?

    There are challenging and urgent policy implications of this potential worsening of racial-ethnic child disparities. It is imperative that policymakers address this impending harm by pursuing fiscal and policy initiatives which recognize this disproportionate risk and target responses accordingly.

    The guiding principle should be to first restore and then enhance all the pre-pandemic initiatives that were in place to reduce key racial-ethnic disparities in health and education. Every policy and budget decision in our recovery effort will therefore need to be viewed through an equity lens: does this decision recognize the unacceptably disproportionate hardship burden borne by Virginia’s Black and Hispanic children and respond in a manner that does not perpetuate or worsen their previous disadvantage?

    Voices is a member of the Fund our Schools Coalition calling to restore education funding. Fund Our Schools partner, The Commonwealth Institute, has wisely urged state decisionmakers while crafting pandemic relief plans not to repeat the upside-down school funding decisions made in response to the Great Recession. In that instance, though recession-era budget cuts had disproportionately impacted the poorest school divisions and students, lawmakers restored proportionately less – not more – funding to these divisions as state finances recovered. Lawmakers should heed the advice and avoid uniform across-the-board recovery initiatives that fail to respond to the reality of COVID-19’s disproportionate harm. Failure to do so will needlessly and callously worsen existing racial-ethnic inequities and push Black and Hispanic children even farther behind their white counterparts. On economic, social and moral grounds this would be an intolerable outcome.

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  2. Provide $80 million in CARES Act Funds for Child Care Stabilization Grants

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    DOWNLOAD THIS FACT SHEET TO SHARE WITH COMMUNITY LEADERS & LAWMAKERS

    child care stabilization grant fact sheetThere is an urgent need for child care to support working parents. Multiple factors are coinciding into a perfect storm. This storm is threatening both the child care industry and our workforce, impacting approximately 450,000 children in Virginia who need some kind of child care and might not be able to access it.

    Families are not able to access child care right now because:

    • The child care program they have attended is closed or is accepting fewer children. To meet safety guidelines, many programs have closed due to uncertainties with liability, finances, and staffing needs.
    • Parents have reduced incomes and may not be able to afford child care. .
    • School will now be virtual and parents must find safe, affordable, and nurturing caregivers who will help support their child’s virtual instruction.

    More Children Need Access to Affordable and Safe Child Care

    We estimate the number of children who need assistance for child care right now due to school closures and family financial insecurity to be more than 450,000 children in in Virginia. However, this estimate could change as school divisions and families adjust their plans to participate in virtual learning.

    114,000 + 344,000 ~ 450,000 children in need of child care

    How to meet this need when it seems impossible? Plan for the long-term by building supply of child care facilities.

    Grants and contracts will be necessary to ensure that child care is available, well-staffed, and provide safe care. Initial grants to child care providers from Virginia’s CARES funding for child care afforded providers an average $11,000 grant for a three-month period. A second round of grants would make a similar amount of funding available to providers for July, August, and September. Nationally, only half of the child care providers who applied for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans were awarded funds, representing one-quarter of the total child care industry.

    Additional CARES Act funding awarded to Virginia can help support the supply of available child care to meet both the long-term needs of early childhood programs, educators, and short-term care responding to school closure. For the child care industry to come back, programs will need funding to make up for the loss of tuition, and to cover the cost of hiring and compensating additional staff.

    Grants could be structured to meet the supply demands in the following ways:

    • For center-based child care: Award grants based on the cost to hire and retain an early educator for one year, $40,000- $60,000 per classroom. These funds could serve 12-20 children depending on the age of child.
    • For home-based child care and networks providing micro-schools for low-income children: Award grants by offsetting tuition costs per child. The average home-based child care charges $8,000 tuition for 4-year-olds. To take additional children, or for new providers to care for children, home-based providers could receive grants to serve additional children based on the tuition amount.
    • For new, “pop-up” child care programs that will monitor virtual learning and are not intended to be sustained in the long term, costs could be scaled to meet the short-term need rather than the needs of an on-going classroom. The costs for short-term virtual learning support staff could be in the $20,000- $30,000 range to serve groups of 15-20 children for approximately a six-month time period.

    With an investment of $80 million in CARES Act funding, Virginia could only provide:

    • 1,600 child care classrooms serving 24,000 young children; or
    • 10,000 tuition grants to children seeking home-based child care in small settings; or
    • Short-term monitors for virtual learning for 48,000 children.

    None of these options are enough. Only the first two options invest in the longer-term stability of the child care industry and the early education workforce. The third is a band-aid to meet an immediate need. A pool of grant funding should be administered to promote additional child care access in communities with high percentages of low-income families and experiencing high rates of child care closures. Additional ground-level surveys and analysis being currently being conducted by SmartBeginnings communities can help identify needs. These networks or other local connectors like United Way can help local government and school division navigate what is needed to respond in their community.

    The need is great. And the need is now. Use $80 million of Virginia’s unallocated $1.3 billion in CARES Act funding to provide child care stabilization grants to local community partnerships and providers. The Virginia Department of Education and Department of Social Services must develop grant criteria that local communities or regional collaboratives could apply for to meet any of the above needs for working parents and their children.

  3. 2020 Special Session Priorities

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    The last five months have been disruptive for children and families in Virginia. Children and parents are facing challenges, hardship and trauma that will impact them for a lifetime. Financial, parent, and child emotional distresses contribute to a chain reaction, which serves as evidence that, for many children, the pandemic is causing, what is often referred to as toxic stress or trauma. This involves the chronic activation of the stress response system in ways that are known to affect brain, biological, and socioemotional development.

    As leaders of Virginia, we know that you intend to keep the best interests of children in mind and that you wish to address the adverse experiences of this pandemic. To address these needs in both the short and long-term, you must prioritize the needs of children and their parents with your proposals for the state budget.

    Keep Children and Families Economically Secure and Food Secure

    A nationally representative survey, the Rapid EC project has found that 1 in 5 families with young children reported having a hard time paying for their basic expenses (food, housing & utilities) right now. And the Census Household Pulse survey shows that  families of color in Virginia are twice as likely to report insufficient access to food in the last seven days (22% of Black households and 23% of Hispanic households) than the average household.

    OUR POLICY ASKS:

    • Exhaust every resource from TANF, CARES or additional federal funds to keep families financially secure. The safety nets for families exist for crises like these to afford housing security and stability for families. Cash assistance for families will be necessary to weather additional economic downturns and to pay for unexpected expenses for child care and food in the wake of school closures.
    • Extend the moratorium on evictions. The Governor should sign an Executive Order or the General Assembly should act to halt evictions. Evictions will cause additional disruptions for families and could put children at-risk of entering the foster care system.
    • Ensure postpartum mothers can access health insurance. Extend eligibility for FAMIS Moms from 60 days to 12 full months postpartum.
    • Remove barriers to healthcare for lawfully residing immigrants by eliminating the “40-quarters rule”. 

    Keep Children and Families Emotionally Secure and Supported

    On the most recent Census Household Pulse survey 70% of parents or caregivers reported feeling nervous, anxious or on-edge more than several days in the week. The nationally representative sample of families with young children, the Rapid EC project, reported increasing anxiety   stress levels for all parents as a result of the pandemic. In mid-June anxiety levels had started to decline except for three groups of parents—economically disadvantaged parents, Black parents and families with three or more children. The compound effects of the pandemic and systemic racism on Black families should be acknowledged and addressed by Virginia leaders.

    OUR POLICY ASKS:

    • Extend telehealth and broadband capacity to continue mental health and parent coaching visits. A bright spot of the pandemic has been how quickly mental health and health care providers, as well as home visitors and those offering OT/PT and developmental services, were able to shift their supports on line. Additional funding to support broadband access as well as the home visiting and Part C support services can continue these needed services.
    • Help children access mental health care through connections to primary care by continuing the Virginia Mental Health Access Program (VMAP). Unfreeze $8.4 million to expand access to mental health services for children.
    • Meet capacity and care needs at the Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents (CCCA). Ongoing mental health needs will likely cause a surge in admissions in the following months. CCCA has incurred COVID-19 related expenses that remain unmet. To maintain a safe and therapeutic environment, unfreeze $1.5 million to fund additional clinical staff at CCCA.
    • Continue implementation of behavioral health system reforms: STEP-VA, Medicaid services redesign, increasing Medicaid provider rates and bringing more providers to the system through loan repayment programs.

     Support the Early Education and Care Industry

     A July survey by NAEYC found that 38% of child care providers in Virginia would close in the next six months without additional  financial support. During the 2020 Session legislators authorized $85 million to increase access to early education. To respond to current needs, those funds should prioritized and shifted to use as grants for the private child care industry to further expand a strong mixed-delivery system for early education.

    OUR POLICY ASKS:

    • Additional grants are needed to stabilize the child care industry and target community need. With schools closing or moving virtually, the child care industry has stepped up to provide safe care for families who need it. That does not come without additional costs. Child care providers should be awarded grants or contracts to serve children in low-income working families. State leadership for stabilization grants should come from the Department of Education as the new home for the unified early childhood sector.

    Support Early Childhood Educators and Caregivers

    The Center for the Study of the Child Care Workforce reports in their 2018 survey that 51 percent of the child care workforce in Virginia received public benefits. The average hourly wage for an educator in a child care facility was $9.82 in 2018. This low-wage workforce is predominately women and disproportionately women of color.

    OUR POLICY ASKS:

    • Additional funding and protections will be necessary for the early childhood workforce. These caregivers should be afforded the same access to protective equipment and testing as other frontline workers. As these caregivers put themselves and their families at risk for very low wages, additional funding should be maximized to offer hazard pay or incentives.

    Return to School and Child Care Safely

    The pandemic has created numerous challenges to implement safe, caring and nurturing learning environments for children. State leaders must, at a minimum, help ensure that children in school divisions and localities across Virginia have their basic health and mental health needs met.

    OUR POLICY ASKS:

    • To meet the unique needs of health and safety practices in educational settings the state should create a task force to provide uniform guidance for health and safety in all educational settings. And to ensure guidance is relevant to meeting the needs of children, their caregivers and educators and working parents. This task force should look at safety guidance from DSS and VDOE, consistent guidance and approaches offered by local health department, and identifying additional resources needed to implement health and safety standards, such additional school nurse positions or other community health workers.
    • As local school divisions ramp up their social and emotional supports for children and families we hope that you will restore new education funding frozen in the budget and make additional funding available specifically for student mental health needs such as teaching training, additional support staff, purchasing services in the community, or implementing new mental health support approaches or technology.

    More Supports for the Foster Care System

    The pandemic has resulted in fewer calls to Child Protective Services while families are feeling more stressed and children are more likely to experience trauma and hardship. We would like to see calls to CPS continue to stay low, as long as children’s safety and security needs are being met.

    OUR POLICY ASKS:

    • The General Assembly authorized additional prevention services funds for communities and local social services agencies to stabilize families before coming in to the foster care system. The final budget should include $15 million to provide a range of evidence based and trauma-informed services to children at risk of entering foster care.
    • Reinvest $12 million to fund community-based prevention and intervention programs – with dollars specifically allocated to funds programs targeted at communities of color.
    • Local social services staff are also frontline workers helping families to navigate these challenging times. To ensure they are supported the state should unfreeze $11 million to raise staff minimum salaries.

     

  4. Pre-COVID Child Care Policies Don’t Fit New Landscape

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    On July 1, the state’s policies guiding child care assistance immediately reverted back to pre-COVID practices. But nothing about the context of July 1, 2020 is anything like January 1, 2020. We can’t apply pre-COVID policies in a landscape that has fundamentally changed. Instead, we need to make immediate shifts to make policies work for families and the child care industry. We need to drill down into the data to better understand current practice and where we can make changes. And we will need to provide the resources to support a new landscape. 

    Ways that the Child Care Landscape Has Changed 

    Temporary Closure of Providers Beginning to Look More Like Permanent Closure  

    After more than four months of closure, many child care programs may not open again. Child Care Aware of Virginia reported that more than 1200 child care programs that would normally be open this time of year are closed. The Center for American Progress estimates that Virginia could lose up to 45 percent of child care capacity due to the pandemic. We don’t know what  the child care landscape in Virginia looks like with a large reduction of available slots and staff gone. The question remains – how do state resources help programs re-open? 

    Family Preferences Create Uncertainty and Shifts to Smaller Programs 

    Some families that would have normally sent their children to preschool or child care this year will choose to keep them home to avoid exposure to the virus. Some would prefer their children to be in smaller settings such as home-based care. With family preferences changing, how do private providers and the industry respond to adjust to new models?  

    More School-Age Children Need Care 

    With the closure of schools in March, the child care needs of school-age children became a pressing need. With summer camps closed, there continues to be a pressing need for child care. With the possibility of  schools reopening on a rotating schedule, or a few days a week, the needs of school-age children will be even more prominent. Most licensed or regulated child care settings could serve children up to age 13 but they are not staffed to do so, nor have the space to do so. Likewise, the state subsidy payments for school-age children assume costs when children would not be attending for full days or for short periods only.  

    Historical Spending Trends for Local Allocations Do Not Reflect Current Reality 

    The allocation of our state and federal Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) funds to localities has been based on a formula of historical spending not of estimates of need. These allocations drive how many new families a local DSS site can approve for access assistance and how many providers in a particular community might receive. To better maximize our state subsidy funding, Virginia should revisit these allocations or provide significant additional funding on top of the base allocation to localities.  

    Child Care Assistance Eligibility and Payment Practices Impacting Participation 

    Virginia sets its own parameters for the eligibility of our child care assistance funds. On July 1, 2020, these policies also reverted to a pre-COVID context. For example, families are required to pay co-pays to providers. Families are now more limited in the number of absences that a provider can be paid for even if their child gets sick or other family members get sick. 

    Since July 1, families can now lose their eligibility for child care assistance if they are unemployed and likely even furloughed without a rehire date. Additionally, many families may be approved for subsidy but their child care program is closed or they are not working. Families approved but not actively in child care have been factored into the payment allocations and authorized enrollment numbers. This practice  impacts the ability of local DSS programs to enroll new families off the waitlist and spend down their allocations.  

    Another factor that will hamper the ability to provide care to school-age children is that payment rates during the school year are calculated for before and after school, not the full day. If students are expected to be with child care providers for a full day while schools are closed, VDSS will need to revise these payment practices to ensure maximum payment. While reimbursement rates vary by locality, a licensed center in Richmond City for example would only receive $30 per day for a school age child from the child care subsidy assistance program if the student attended full day.  

    What Can the VA Department of Social Services Do to Address the Changing Landscape? 

    To support the child care industry, it will be critically important to advocate for additional federal resources. To advocate for additional resources, we must also know how Virginia is using existing resources to meet needs. We encourage the state to provide more information on how $70 million in CARES Act funds have been used and if there are any unspent surpluses in the CCDF or TANF federal funds that could be used for child care needs. 

    VDSS must also consider their enrollment and participation date from the last four months to predict future trends. Enrollment data must be scrutinized for when cases are suspended for the parent’s work status or an available vendor. Processes can be reconsidered to create new conditions for when a family is in suspended status. 

    Additionally, payment practices to child care providers need to be examined and improved. A notable policy of the CARES Act grants to open providers was to provide funds to all types of providers, not those only approved to participate in the child care subsidy program. This is an important step to support a fragile industry. However, VDSS has reported that the average CARES Act grant for a three-month period was $11,000. The maximum amount a family child care provider with enrollment capped at 12 children could receive was $1,800 for these three months. These payments are helpful but fall far short of meeting the need. And they do not adequately reflect the contributions of the workforce and an industry who have accepted tremendous risks to keep children safe and to keep the rest of the workforce at work.  

    While the initial payments do fall short, they also provide useful lessons learned. In the practice of providing a grant payment to providers the state helped to stabilize the industry and provide a guarantee of income. Through these methods, providers could keep doors open when family choices and needs fluctuate. Using grants or contracts also provides opportunities for the state to provide course corrections in a new landscape and to seek more equitable distributions of funds. In the future, VDSS should look to grants or contracts to target geographical areas experiencing needs by funding providers for a region. Grants or contracts could also be structured to meet specific criteria such as family child care providers in communities of color or those agreeing to pay higher wages to staff.  And grants or contracts can be structured to fund actual costs—salaries, cleaning supplies, hazard pay—and not the variability of funding by child.  

    What Can State Policymakers Do to Address the Changing Landscape? 

    There is no question more money will be needed to support families and the child care industry. State policymakers can start now to estimate what will be needed. Asking for transparency in how existing child care funds will be used and any available resources can provide insight in the changing landscape of how federal assistance can be used. Additionally, as state policy makers have approved the transition of CCDBG dollars to the Virginia Department of Education beginning in 2021, now is a good time to begin asking how those dollars can be aligned to educational resources to meet the needs of students returning to school, particularly in light of staggered schedules. The answer is both education and social services will fall short of the level of necessary funding, so how can any new funds allocated to the purposes of child care fall under the purview of VDOE to align with educational needs and future needs of the system?  

    We will need additional funds to meet the child care need going forward. Virginia’s Congressional delegation has signaled strong support for an additional $50 billion in federal funding for child care. The timing or guarantee is far from certain. In the meantime, lawmakers must call for additional funds for child care needs in the Special Session of the Virginia General Assembly to meet the needs of the changing landscape.  

  5. Stabilize Child Care with the CARES Act Stimulus

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    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:

    1. Continue payment for child care subsidy upon decreased enrollment or temporary closure.
    2. Provide financial assistance for child care regardless of income for essential personnel such as health care workers and emergency responders.
    3. 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. 

  6. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act In Your Community

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    The CARES Act was signed into law on March 27th to create a $2 trillion economic stimulus efforts for business, health care, communities, and families. Implementing the CARES Act will provide direct relief to some families and businesses. And it will require a number of policy choices by state and local leaders to determine how funds will be used in communities and which of the many pressing needs will be met. Learn more about what is included in the CARES Act to prepare to speak up for the needs of children and families.

    This chart shows how the $2 trillion economic stimulus impacts various sectors. We have posted a blog on the impacts on individuals. In this blog, we highlight the impacts on public health, the safety net and economic security.  

    How the CARES Act will impact your community:

    Federal, State, and Local Public Health Agencies

    $140.4 billion in funding is allocated to the Department of Health and Human Services. $127 billion goes to the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund, which encompasses $100 billion for grants to hospitals, public entities, non-profits and Medicare-and-Medicaid-enrolled suppliers and institutional providers to cover unreimbursed healthcare expenses or lost revenue. Additional funding includes:

    • $16 billion for the Strategic National Stockpile funding to help secure personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators and other medical supplies.
    • $11 billion for vaccine diagnostics and other medical needs.
    • $4.3 billion through the CDC  to federal, state, and local public health agencies to respond to COVID-19.
    • $425 million to SAMHSA for treatment mental health and substance use disorders as a result of COVID-19 pandemic with certified community behavioral health clinics receiving $250 million, including $50 million for suicide prevention and $100 million in flexible funding allotted to mental health, substance use disorders and providing resources to youth and the homeless during this time.
    • $275 million to expand capacity for rural hospitals, telehealth, poison control centers.

    Child Care 

    The child care industry serves as the backbone of the economy to support working parents under normal circumstances. Today, these providers offer a safe place for essential workers. The National Association for the Education of Young Children COVID19 response survey found that 30% of the 6,000 providers surveyed would be able to survive a closure of more than two weeks without support.  The CARES Act includes $6.3 billion to the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), including $3.5 billion in emergency funding through the Child Care & Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which allows states to provide critical relief to childcare providers. This will allow states to use funding to:

    • Provide continued payments to child care providers in response to decreased enrollment or closures.
    • Provide child care assistance regardless of income to healthcare employees, emergency responders, sanitation workers, and other workers classified as essential during the pandemic.
    • Provide funding to child care providers who did not participate in subsidy prior to COVID-19 emergency for cleaning and sanitation and other activities needed to resume program operation.

    Virginia will receive approximately $67 million in child care assistance funds.

    Human Services

    The stimulus provided minimal to moderate assistance in other areas of human services including:

    • ACF increases child welfare service flexibility by providing $45 million in federal grants to states to support child welfare services for family violence prevention services, including shelters.
    • $1 billion to the Community Services Block Grant to help local community-based organizations provide social services and emergency assistance.
    • $900 million for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program to help manage costs associated with home energy bills, energy crises, and weatherization and energy related minor home repairs.
    • $2 million for the Domestic Violence Hotline.
    • $25 million to provide assistance to runaway and homeless youth.

    Economic Stimulus Funding to States, Territories, Local and Tribal Governments

    One area that will take additional analysis to better understand and implement is the $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund for state, local and tribal governments. Virginia is estimated to receive $3.3 billion to use at the state and local level for a number of flexible purposes. Localities with populations over 500,000 people can receive up to 45% of Virginia’s total allocation.

    Funding is intended to be utilized for costs that:

    • Are necessary expenditures related to COVID-19.
    • Were unaccounted for in the most recently approved budget as of the date of the passing legislation.
    • Incurred between March 1, 2020 and December 30, 2020.

    Voices is monitoring how local governments are responding to these difficult economic choices. These stimulus funds will not solve all the problems and stresses now impacting Virginia’s children and families or the local and state government leaders wishing to respond.

    Learn more about how the Congress has taken action to ease families financial burdens on our companion blog.  

  7. COVID 19 – Virginia Foster Care Policy Recommendations

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    The Foster Care Policy Network is comprised of partners from across the Commonwealth who represent policy advocates, service providers, parents and caregivers, and—most especially—youth to identify key legislative opportunities to improve Virginia’s child welfare system. We have worked together over the last few days to develop a list of recommendations for a coordinated response to COVID-19.

    This page will be updated frequently with updates, please check back often. 

    Foster Care Unified Network: COVID-19 Recommendations

    Our social safety net for families and children–especially those in the child welfare system–is a net with very large holes. This crisis will reveal the full extent of those holes, and also stretch them large enough that many families and children will fall through. However, the COVID-19 crisis creates the necessity to address these holes and an opportunity to identify those holes and do something NOW. To fix the problems–both in the short term, and long term, to ensure all families have the safety and support they need to flourish. Together the Virginia Foster Care Policy Network proposes these immediate actions to take place to ensure the safety and well-being of children in foster care.

    State Government + Localities 

    • Visitation for children in foster care should not be disrupted. Local departments must provide, as appropriate, the best available visitation option, including video and telephonic visitation with parents and other family members, and including grandparents and siblings. Given the high mortality rate among elderly persons, departments must seek to minimize the potential trauma to children and maintain family connections. Children will be concerned for their parents and family members, and will depend on the structure of regular visits to maintain connections and to have continuing interactions with all family members — especially in the event of loss of loved ones.
    • Congress has acted so that Virginia can take up the option to temporarily waive in-person requirements for home visits by LDSS workers and their community based counterparts. In times where contact should be limited, a web option will provide flexibility to ensure children remain safe in their placements and continue to promote permanency for children in foster care.
    • LDSS should provide guidance to birth, foster, adoptive and kinship families on best practices to reduce the effect of Coronavirus on children. This guidance should include sharing information on health precautions, guidance on navigating unexpected needs for child care and maintaining stability for children who rely on stability to heal from trauma histories.
    • As of March 16, 2020, all Virginia courts are under a Judicial Emergency Order to continue all cases for 21 days with the exception of emergency matters, which include child protective orders and emergency child custody matters. For matters which cannot be continued, courts are to utilize video and telephone technology. We urge all localities and courts to utilize this technology to ensure due process is provided to all parents and children in child protection and child dependency cases, and avoid overly-relying on continuances for child protection and foster care cases.
    • Broad leniency should be extended to parents in child-dependency cases by both local departments and courts, taking into account the financial and emotional stresses families will be under, including disruption of daily living, loss of work, lack of child care, and need to care for sick family members without adequate access to medical services, as well as inability to access vital services as offices close. No child in Virginia should lose their parents due to our systems’ inability to provide support to families endeavoring to achieve reunification.
    • All LDSS employees should be classified as essential personnel. With the potential economic uncertainty and loss of income for many Virginians, including birth families, foster, adoptive and kinship families, there will likely be an increased need in social services. By classifying LDSS employees as essential personnel, Virginia would be better positioned to continue providing these essential services to families during this unexpected hardship.
    • Virginia should create a new COVID-19-specific or disaster-relief-specific program to provide temporary cash to foster & kinship families, and youth in fostering futures. There should be minimal eligibility detail required with no asset tests and broad income guidelines, such as serving families with income under 200 percent of the federal poverty line.
    • State leaders should provide guidance for staff at DSS offices, Licensed Child Placing Agencies, and group homes for social distancing.
    • Youth currently enrolled in Virginia’s Fostering Futures program should receive a minimum 60- day waiver for the requirements to stay enrolled.

    Virginia League of Social Service Executives