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COVID-19 - A Massachusetts Child Care Update

Greater Boston Legal Services

All child care programs in the state are in Massachusetts and will remain so for as long as we are under a state of emergency. Temporary emergency back up child care has been set up an is opening as of Monday, March 23. Here is some further information about both of these issues. 

Emergency Back Up Child Care

Recognizing that some people still need to work and have no other option, the state has authorized some child care providers to provide emergency, back up, drop-in child care.

Here's who will have priority access, from EEC's website as of March 23:

  • Priority will be given to people including but not limited to health care workers, essential state and human service workers, COVID-19 health workers, grocery store employees, emergency response personnel, law enforcement, transportation and infrastructure workers, sanitation workers, DCF-involved families, and families living in shelters.
  • Based on a webinar with the Commissioner on Friday, it seems programs will use their discretion in deciding who gets care.

To access care, a family must call each provider to see if they have space on a day by day basis.

These programs will be completely free to families.

This is a fundamentally different program from regular early education. While there are health and safety requirements, they are not as stringent as regular early education. EEC has prioritized approving providers that already held EEC licenses, had a site visit in the past 6 months, and where all staff had completed background records checks.  

Families are encouraged to find other non-group care to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

Families will be provided a spot, to the extent available, day by day.

No transportation will be provided. Families need to find a way to get their children to the program and home each day.

Child care will be provided in center based settings, with no more than 2 classrooms open, with a max of 20 children in each classroom. Ages will be mixed. Normal rules about ratios do not apply. 

Child care will also be provided in family child care, i.e. providers in their homes. I believe that is limited to 10 children per provider.

The amount the state is paying providers will not cover the basic operating costs of running these programs. Programs are stepping up majorly to help our communities. DPH will prioritize COVID-19 testing for child care providers who may be exposed to coronavirus.

Child Care Closures

Although child care providers are closed, many private providers continue to charge families their regular tuition. Here's what the Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General office has put out about that.

Programs that receive child care subsidies will continue to be paid their full subsidized rate, with the state picking up the portion that would normally be paid through parent fees. To be clear, families with subsidized child care do not need to pay their regular parent fee to maintain their subsidy. This is something GBLS advocated for with EEC's Commissioner, and we very much appreciate her work getting approval for stopping parent fees.

When this is all over, families will get their subsidies back. GBLS has begun advocating with EEC around a host of issues for families getting or trying to keep their subsidies.

However, it remains to be seen whether child care providers- that tend to exist on a perilous financial margin in the best of times- will survive or whether they will fail and close. There are local and national advocacy efforts afoot to get increased public support for child care programs.

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