Incentive grant program gets funding boost

New funding of $65.8 million was announced Wednesday to increase access to child care and support child care providers amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

This new investment is supported by $58.3 million in Coronavirus Relief Fund dollars as well as a reallocation of $7.5 million in Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) funding through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Recovery, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, according to a release from Gov. Ralph Northam.

First Lady Northam made the announcement Wednesday during a virtual meeting of the Children’s Cabinet.

“Our ongoing COVID-19 response and recovery depends upon having a child care system that is both accessible and operational,” said Northam. “Early childhood educators have been on the frontlines since COVID-19 pandemic started, going above and beyond to keep their doors open, ensure children are safe, and even fill in the gaps with remote learning as schools have reopened. This new funding will help them continue to support working families and enable more programs to safely provide in-person child care.”

This funding will continue the incentive grant program for child care providers announced in April through the end of 2020. This program provides flexible cash assistance to child care providers to help offset operating costs and expenses associated with meeting health and safety guidelines. The Virginia Department of Social Services, in partnership with the Virginia Department of Education, has distributed more than $46 million in direct assistance to child care programs to date.

“Virginia’s early educators are truly superheroes, and thousands of our families rely on them every day,” said Pam Northam. “After listening to providers across the Commonwealth, it was clear that continuing this incentive grant program had to be our top priority. I am thrilled we were able to get it done, and I look forward to continuing to support early childhood education during this difficult time.”

Nearly 2,672 child care programs in Virginia—nearly 45 percent—closed their doors at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but thanks to more than $70 million in grants and other relief, many either have reopened or are starting to. Providers have reported that this funding is critical and many indicated that without additional financial support, they were unsure how long they could continue to operate.

“Child care plays an essential role in providing high-quality, safe learning environments for Virginia’s children while ensuring their parents and caregivers are able to work,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources Daniel Carey, MD, MHCM. “Serving working families remains a top priority and we will continue to do all we can to support them.”

Child care programs have also stepped up to serve children who are participating in virtual learning, ensuring that they have safe, supervised spaces with access to food, supplies, and internet. At least half of open child care programs have reported serving school-age children, and this new funding will also help communities establish public-private partnerships to meet the needs of working families with school-age children.

“Access to child care, especially from birth to age 12, is key to our economic recovery, financial stability for families, and helping Virginia’s children succeed in school,” said Virginia Department of Social Services Commissioner S. Duke Storen. “This additional funding provides a critical financial lifeline to the many working parents who depend on child care programs.”

Distribution of these funds will be announced by the Virginia Department of Social Services in the coming weeks. A comprehensive guide to COVID-19 child care resources in Virginia is available here. Additional health and safety guidance for Child care centers that remain open can be found here.

Parents who 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.

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