On March 27th, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was enacted. The CARES Act provides $3.5 billion and various flexibilities for state, territory, and tribal lead agencies to operate their Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) programs to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) public health emergency and to ensure the supply of child care after the emergency subsides.
The CARES Act includes additional provisions that, although not specific to child care, address the needs of child care providers and child care workers, as does the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“Families First Act”), which was enacted on March 18th. State, territory, and tribal governments now face the complexities of blending COVID-19 funding programs across multiple agencies to best support children, families, and child care providers. To aid with these decisions, the Office of Child Care (OCC) has prepared guidance listing the funding programs outside of the CCDF program that affect child care providers and staff. The information can be accessed, along with updates reflecting ongoing legislation, on this OCC webpage [acf.hhs.gov].
As lead agencies plan how to use the CCDF program-specific funds and flexibilities offered in the CARES Act, they should consider how the full range of COVID-19 provisions interact with or touch on child care. First, OCC recommends that lead agencies coordinate with their state, territory, and tribal leadership and corresponding agencies to strategically deploy these funding programs. Lead agencies should communicate to their state, territory, and tribal leadership about specific needs that the CCDF program-focused CARES Act funds are unable to meet that other COVID-19 funding programs may support. Some COVID-19 funding programs have flexibility in using funds. For example, the Coronavirus Relief Fund provides $150 billion in additional funding for state, territory, and tribal governments to cover COVID-19 expenditures. Supply grants (i.e., grants for child care providers to pay for fixed costs, like salaries and wages, even if the child care provider is closed) can be funded through the Coronavirus Relief Fund. Second, OCC recommends that lead agencies communicate with child care providers, via child care resource and referral centers and other stakeholders, regarding the various COVID-19 funding programs available and ways to access them. These funding programs can have complex application processes, and child care providers may need assistance in accessing them. Lead agencies are uniquely positioned to describe how their CCDF program is situated among the COVID-19 funding programs and to maximize available support.
Early Childhood Services Bureau Chief
CCDF State Administrator