By Charlotte Smith
North Carolina child care facilities must complete a COVID-19 Emergency Child Care application to remain open after March 31, 2020. The new policy has many local daycare owners concerned.
On March 26, North Carolina Department Health and Human Services Division of Child Development and Early Education released the following statement, “Effective April 1, we expect all child care programs to meet new health, safety, and operational guidelines. If you are currently open and wish to remain open after March 31, child care programs must complete a COVID-19 Emergency Child Care Provider Application Form by 11:59 p.m. on March 31. The application details the health, screening, safety, and operational requirements for remaining open or reopening to provide emergency child care to critical workers. Additionally, a financial assistance package for providers and families is also included in the guidance document.”
Ilka McElveen, owner of Kidz N’ Motion Childcare Fitness & Dance Center in Elizabethtown, said, “Most daycares only have a handful of kids, and now if we close, we can’t open back up until they say we can open.”
McElveen explained, her staff has already been restricted to part-time hours since the outbreak has affected the daycare’s attendance.
Shala Cox, with Sunshine Corner Daycare in Elizabethtown, said, “Most of the daycares are all down in their numbers.”
“A lot of our children are staying home because their parents are working from home,” Cox stated, “But, a nurse could get called in, and there is no set times for healthcare workers, which makes it hard for daycares.”
Beginning April 1, a Critical Worker Emergency Child Care Subsidy program will provide financial assistance to parents/primary caregivers who are critical workers and who do not have other child care options.
Therefore, starting in April, parents may hop around to different daycares because of their erratic schedules. Cox explained, “They could get called in at 11:00, and some daycares don’t have those operating hours.”
She added, “We are concerned, and we don’t know if those children that hop around to different daycares have been around the virus. We are concerned for our families and our community.”
The COVID-19 Guidance for Child Care Operations states, “If you do not meet the application deadline of March 31, you will not be approved by DCDEE to continue providing child care until further notice.”
McElveen and Cox both said they have been in contact with elected officials for assistance in this matter.
McElveen said, “I’ve called all the Representatives. We feel like we are being made to stay open. I was told unless they do a shelter in place or executive order, we need to follow the guidelines. If we close, may not be able to open back up.”
Cox said, “I talked to Danny Britt, and he sent a letter to the Governor to help us keep our jobs.”
The daycares must provide services not only to healthcare workers, but all the children enrolled for the services, which includes subsidy paid childcare, according to the daycare owners.
“We just don’t’ know what to do at this point, and we are asking people to say a prayer, and if you can, contact your elected official for assistance,” Cox said.
The Guidance for the child care operations also states, “NC DHHS will pay bonus payments to all full-time child care employees for April and May 2020. NC DHHS will pay providers $300 per month for all teaching staff and $200 per month for all non-teaching staff.”
About the child care subsidy, the State Guidance form states NC DHHS will pay subsidy and NC PreK payments that are at least the amount paid for February 2020 attendance, so that providers are held harmless for decreases in participation in April and May 2020. Subsidy and NC PreK payments will only be made if the classrooms are open and serving children in April and May 2020. NC DHHS covers the cost of all parent co-payments for the child care subsidy program for April and May 2020. Child care programs must waive all parent co-payments for these months.