On May 13, the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) issued updated guidance concerning child care providers in light of Governor Ralph Northam’s phased approach to lifting certain restrictions on businesses in the Commonwealth. A letter from VDSS to child care providers details the process by which child care centers may continue operations in Phase I or by which they may reopen. This guidance is meant to ensure the safety of child care providers and children under their care. The new state guidelines closely match Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, and detail enhanced social distancing measures, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), and infection control and sanitation practices.
Ensuring child care is available for essential workers and for families who are returning to work under phased reopening remains an issue of concern for VDSS and the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE). The closure of K-12 schools throughout the Commonwealth mandated by Executive Order 53 directly impacts approximately 1.2 million children under the age of 12 and their families. According to the Governor’s office, approximately 2,672 child care centers—nearly 45 percent—have closed. Combined with family day homes and other child care sites, these closures represent a reduction in capacity of at least 200,000 slots as of the end of March.
As a result of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Virginia received approximately $70 million out of $3.5 billion in federal funds through the Child Care and Development Block Grant, which subsidizes child care services to eligible families through vouchers or grants and contracts with child care providers. This funding will be used to increase the availability of child care services for essential personnel and support child care centers by:
- Providing incentive grants to child care providers that are open, through the end of June;
- Eliminating co-payments through June for low-income, working families who receive federal child care subsidy dollars;
- Preparing schools to act as emergency child care centers, where needed; and
- Providing additional funding for child care providers that participate in the federal subsidy program, but have had to close.
Parents who serve in essential industries and are in need of child care services should visit Child Care Aware at VAchildcare.org or call 1-866-KIDS-TLC for an up-to-date list of child care options in their area.