State expands child care assistance through CARES funding

Child care providers and low-income families could soon see some financial relief, thanks to an expansion of the state's child care assistance programs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The state Department of Social Services announced Wednesday it is implementing changes to its assistance programs with $66 million in funding from the federal CARES Act Child Care Plan.
The changes were announced during a news conference held by Gov. Mike Parson on May 6. Parson said the state can help parents who are struggling to find child care.
"We'd like to know who those people are and where they're at and see how we can help them with that," Parson said. "I think that's what all this federal money is for. And we're trying to provide those services."
Under the changes announced Wednesday, child care providers who accept subsidies will receive payments based on authorized care instead of actual attendance during April, May and June. Previously, providers got subsidy money based on the number of days children were in their care. The move will provide relief for providers who have seen a decrease in attendance or had to close their doors because of the pandemic. Last month, data from Child Care Aware showed that nearly 50% of child care programs across the state had already shut down.
In some counties, like Boone, providers could only take care of kids of essential workers during the stay-at-home order. Providers who have stayed open to take care of those children can now receive a one-time payment based on their child capacity, ranging from $1,000 to $7,500. Further, providers who operate from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. Monday through Friday and on the weekends can get a $100 monthly stipend for each child care slot.
The department also announced several changes to its eligibility requirements for child care subsidies. Now, low-income families who are unemployed because of COVID-19 are eligible for a temporary child care subsidy while looking for a new job. The 90-day benefit is available through December 2020.
Additionally, from May 1 to Aug. 31, parents who work or attend school with an income anywhere from 138% to 215% of the federal poverty level, which would mean an annual salary of up to $56,330 for a family of four, can now qualify for transitional child care subsidies.
The state is putting $10 million toward one-time grants for higher education institutions to create on-campus child care programs, which include slots for families relying on subsidized care.

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