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More families with young children may now have access to $1,000 per month for child care in Virginia under new law
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More families with young children may now have access to $1,000 per month for child care in Virginia under new law

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Under a new state law, more families will have eligibility for child care assistance.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced Friday that an additional $203.6 million in federal stimulus funds and expanded eligibility criteria for the Child Care Subsidy Program will help Virginia’s working families and child care providers struck by the pandemic.

This means that many more families will have access and eligibility for child care assistance.

For example, the new law allows families of four earning up to $89,000 a year access to child care assistance if they have a child under age 5, or not yet in kindergarten. The amount of the subsidy will depend on where a family lives, but, for example, a family with an infant looking for care in Henrico County can receive assistance valued at about $1,000 per month for care.

This is a significant increase from the previous income eligibility levels, which were approximately $43,000 for a two-person household in Northern Virginia and $32,000 for a two-person household in the rest of the state.

A family of two, such as a single parent, will be eligible if they have a household income up to $60,480, or for a family of three, they would qualify for child care assistance if they have a household income up to $74,712.

“This is a great way for families to get help paying for something that can be more than their mortgage,” Emily Griffey, chief policy officer for Voices for Virginia’s Children, said. She added that the increased eligibility could “provide that incentive for moms who want to move on in their career or get back into the workforce,” as more than 2.3 million women have left the workforce in the past year due to the pressures of the pandemic.

The expansion of the Child Care Subsidy Program is a result of House Bill 2206, sponsored by House Speaker Eileen Filler–Corn, D–Fairfax, which established 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 COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the immense value of quality, accessible child care for Virginia families,” said Filler–Corn in a release. “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.”

Over 90 percent of child care center programs have reopened since the pandemic, according to the governor’s office, but the effects of COVID-19 have resulted in ongoing staffing challenges, revenue shortfalls and increased operational costs for many providers.

Through the funding, Virginia will provide $85 million in stabilization grants to sustain current providers and help closed providers reopen, as well as provide 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.

“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 in a release.

According to a news release, the additional funding will:

• Waive co-payments for families in April, May, and June.

• 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.

• Provide funding for grants and contracts to support increased access to child care in underserved communities.

• Supplement the state’s child care educator incentive program.

• Issue a fourth round of child care stabilization grants to eligible open providers in the Commonwealth. In the third round of grants, 4,408 providers were awarded grants. Those providers will automatically be sent the fourth round. Providers who have recently reopened or never received a grant are encouraged to apply. Guidance will be coming from the Department of Social Services on how to apply.

This is a limited program. Families can apply for child care assistance now through July 31 through the website CommonHelp at commonhelp.virginia.gov or at their local department of social services.

ccurran@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6151

Twitter: @collcurran

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