Virginia invests $203.6M to expand access to childcare, increase support for providers
The COVID-19 pandemic has wrecked the childcare sector, bringing increased operational costs, staffing challenges, revenue shortfalls.
The Commonwealth is committing $203.6 million in federal stimulus monies to try to stabilize the childcare system, and to provide childcare assistance to additional families as they seek stable employment or return to work.
“Early educators have been diligent and dedicated to keeping children safe and meeting the needs of our youngest Virginians since the early days of this public health crisis,” Gov. Ralph Northam said Friday.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, the strength of our recovery will depend upon our ability to help families return to the workforce and provide quality, affordable options for early childhood care and education,” Northam said. “These additional investments will help address the challenges childcare providers are facing and ensure we can continue to deliver critical resources to those most in need now and into the future.”
The additional federal funding will support families and childcare providers by enabling the Commonwealth to:
- Waive co-payments for families in April, May, and June to reduce financial hardship and support children’s access to care.
- Increase absence days so that providers and families can manage occurrences where childcare providers may temporarily need to close or children may need to quarantine.
- Build the foundation for a statewide mental health consultation program to assist childcare providers in helping children through this difficult time.
- Issue a fourth round of childcare stabilization grants to eligible open providers in the Commonwealth.
- Provide funding for grants and contracts to support increased access to childcare in underserved communities.
- Supplement the state’s innovative childcare educator incentive program so that eligible educators in child care centers and family day homes that receive public funding such as the Child Care Subsidy Program are now eligible for up to $2,000 this year to strengthen quality and reduce turnover.
The expansion of the Child Care Subsidy Program is a result of House Bill 2206, sponsored by House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn and recently signed into law by Northam, which establishes a new short-term eligibility category for parents seeking financial assistance for child care while they are looking for employment and temporarily expands income eligibility guidelines for families with young children.
The new income eligibility levels allow families with a household income of up to 85 percent of the state median income to apply if they have a child under age five, or not yet in kindergarten, to qualify.
Funding for the new eligibility category comes from federal coronavirus relief funds dedicated to childcare assistance that Virginia received through the December 2020 stimulus package.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the immense value of quality, accessible childcare for Virginia families. These times have been incredibly hard on parents balancing the need to put food on the table while having to look after their children at home,” Filler-Corn said.
“I thank Gov. Northam for signing this legislation which will help lighten the burden on many working families by making quality childcare more affordable during this public health crisis. I am thankful to have received the bipartisan support of my colleagues in the House and Senate as we work to protect families and build the foundation for a better Virginia,” Filler-Corn said.
“We know that access to quality early childhood care and education has been a concern for many working families, even before the pandemic,” said S. Duke Storen, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Social Services.
“Over the past year, enrollment in our Child Care Subsidy Program has declined by 32 percent, further demonstrating the financial burden families have continued to experience amidst the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. As Virginians return to school and work, we must not only ensure the available supply of childcare to meet the increased demand, but also continue to make investments to maintain a strong childcare system,” Storen said.
VDSS, in partnership with the Virginia Department of Education, is working to operationalize the application process for expanded Child Care Subsidy Program eligibility. VDSS expects to be able to communicate additional program details and stabilization grant information to families and providers by mid-April.
For more information about child care assistance in Virginia, visit ChildCareVA.com.
Families can learn more about expanded eligibility and how to apply here.