An additional $203.6 million in federal stimulus funds and expanded eligibility criteria for the Child Care Subsidy Program will help further stabilize Virginia’s early childhood care and education system, provide childcare assistance to additional families as they seek stable employment or return to work, and deliver critical operational and technical resources to new and returning childcare providers, Gov. Ralph Northam said in a release Friday.
“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,” said Northam. “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. 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.”
While nearly 90 percent of childcare center programs have reopened, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in ongoing staffing challenges, revenue shortfalls, and increased operational costs for many providers. Through the additional funding, Virginia will continue to provide stabilization grants to sustain current providers and help closed providers re-open as well as retention bonuses and scholarships for childcare educators. To support families and children in areas where there are few or no options, Virginia will also offer grants to help open new programs.
The expansion of the Child Care Subsidy Program is a result of House Bill 2206, which Northam recently signed into law. It establishes a new short-term eligibility category for parents seeking financial assistance for childcare 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 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 Virginia.
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 childcare 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.
“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 (VDSS). “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 child care to meet the increased demand, but also continue to make investments to maintain a strong child care system.”
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 childcare assistance in Virginia, visit ChildCareVA.com.