Supporting Families and Child Care Providers Through COVID-19

The federal government and states should prioritize supporting child care providers and families during this pandemic
Blog Post
March 13, 2020

As the number of K-12 school closings related to COVID-19 (coronavirus) continue to increase by the hour, the status of child care providers across the country is less clear. Without access to child care, millions of parents will not be able continue working, possibly resulting in billions of dollars in economic losses.

In order to assist the nation’s child care providers and Head Start programs in weathering this crisis and keeping their doors open, a March 11 letter to Congress signed by over 35 national organizations requests significant and flexible emergency funding for child care and early learning as part of any emergency stimulus package.

The letter emphasizes that such funding should not require a state match and specifically recommends five allowable uses of the funding:

1) providing assistance to programs based on enrollment rather than attendance;

2) providing payments to programs and workers in case of virus-related closures;

3) providing payments to programs that continue to serve children when families are unable to pay co-payments or tuition;

4) paying for the cost of substitute educators; and

5) paying for additional supplies or services that are needed to keep child care centers and homes safe and sanitary.

The letter also asks Congress to ensure that the Department of Health and Human Services issues guidance to states about flexibilities under CCDBG and TANF that can be used to support providers and children. Finally, the letter recommends that guidance be issued to Head Start and Early Head Start programs that allows for flexibility around attendance, enrollment, and staff compensation during any emergency closures that become necessary. As of Friday afternoon, it appeared that the Trump administration and House Democrats had reached a deal on a coronavirus rescue package, but the ultimate fate of the bill remains unclear as does its specific provisions.

A March 13 letter to the Administration of Children and Families signed by a dozen organizations follows up on the earlier letter to Congress by requesting that immediate and clear guidance be issued to state CCDF administrators and lead agencies about how to help child care providers remain financially stable, operable, and open during and after the coronavirus pandemic. The letter emphasizes that states need guidance to understand that they can make policy decisions within existing federal policy that will help provide continuity of care and protect providers from economic crisis and closure.

The letter asks that ACF explicitly encourage states to take a number of actions, including:

1) adjusting payment policies so that they’re based on enrollment rather than actual attendance so that sick children can stay home without reducing provider revenue;

2) waiving policies that terminate child eligibility based on a high number of absences;

3) ensuring that licensing staff are trained on best practices regarding safety and hygiene; and

4) allowing providers to waive co-pays for families impacted by changes to their work schedules and income.

While a lack of access to child care during this epidemic will be a challenge for all Americans, it will be especially difficult for parents who work in jobs that aren’t conducive to telework, such as workers in the service sector who typically earn lower wages. For this reason, it’s imperative that the federal government and states prioritize supporting child care providers and families with low incomes throughout this unprecedented time, especially considering that many child care providers are the providers of nutritious meals for many children each day who might otherwise go hungry. It’s important for government actors to take steps now to ensure stability among child care providers during and after the coronavirus epidemic.

Here are some useful resources for schools and child care providers: CDC Guidance, Resources from the Urban Institute, Resources from NIEER, Resources from the Center for American Progress, NAEYC Survey for Child Care Providers Experiencing Financial and/or Health Impacts From the Coronavirus

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Birth Through Third Grade Learning