Child care subsidy program announced
Gov. Ralph Northam recently announced 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 child care assistance to additional families as they seek stable employment or return to work and deliver critical operational and technical resources to new and returning child care providers.
“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,” Northam said. “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 child care 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% of child care 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 child care 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, sponsored by 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% of the state median income to apply if they have a child under age 5, or not yet in kindergarten, to qualify. Funding for the new eligibility category comes from federal coronavirus relief funds dedicated to child care assistance that Virginia received through the December 2020 stimulus package.
The additional federal funding will support families and child care 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 child care providers may temporarily need to close or children may need to quarantine.
• Build the foundation for a statewide mental health consultation program to assist child care providers in helping children through this difficult time.
• Issue a fourth round of child care stabilization grants to eligible open providers in the commonwealth.
• Provide funding for grants and contracts to support increased access to child care in underserved communities.
• Supplement the state’s innovative child care 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.
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.