Massachusetts closes day cares amid coronavirus outbreak

BOSTON — Right now plans are being made to open emergency childcare programs for the children of essential workers during the coronavirus outbreak.

Everyone else has until Monday to figure out a plan now that day cares are shutting down.

And for some, that's not so easy.

One mother we spoke with said she has to work, but she’s not a first responder, so she really doesn’t know what to do now with her 4-year-old daughter.

“I’m a single mother. I don’t have any support. I rely solely on childcare to work and if I don’t have child care I can’t work so it puts me in a very vulnerable position,” she said.

The mother is a SNAP case manager for the state, where she processes food stamps.

She also has an 11-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter who’s usually in day care.

“My plan is to just show up to work with her and hope they’ll let me work,” she said.

Now that the governor ordered all day cares to close down because of COVID-19, Smith doesn’t know what to do with her daughter while she goes to work.

“I want to go to work. I need a paycheck, I have bills. I have rent, I have credit cards, you know, a car,” she said.

Gov. Charlie Baker said closing day cares is tough, but it will only protect more families from the virus.

“Many of our decisions come with disruption, dismay and disagreement – change in this magnitude in such a short period of time is jarring under any scenario and these changes come with financial and health risks on top of them,” Baker said.

The state will still keep emergency day cares open, only for children whose parents are essential workers like first responders and medical staff.

“Volunteers, teachers and staff from some childcare programs have already reached out to the department to say they are ready and willing to continue providing care – which will be a relief to many of the parents who are working day and night to combat COVID-19,” Baker said.

But many parents still don’t know if they’re considered essential staff.

She said she doesn’t have the tools to fully work from home, and doesn’t have the support system to help watch her daughter for the next few weeks.

“God only knows how long this is supposed to go on for,”she said.

The day care closures begin Monday and will stay closed through April 6.

As for the locations of where those emergency day care centers will open, Baker said the Early Education Commissioner is working to set those up.

MORE: 25 Investigates: Workers across multiple industries say employers aren’t taking COVID-19 seriously enough

State officials provided information for providers and parents on their website.

Frequently Asked Questions for Parents

How do I find an Exempt Emergency Child Care Program?

EEC will post a list of approved Exempt Emergency Child Care programs by 12:00 P.M. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. This list will continue to be updated as more programs are approved. Parents will be responsible for reaching out to the programs.

Can my child go to an Exempt Emergency Child Care Program?

Vulnerable children and the children of families who are required to work to maintain the health, safety, and welfare of all Commonwealth citizens will receive priority access to emergency child care. These programs should only be used by people who must go to work or have no other alternative for care. We encourage all others to abide by social distancing standards laid out by the CDC and the Commonwealth. Guidance for parents on how to sign up for care will be available by 12:00 P.M. on Saturday, March 21, 2020.

What hours are the Exempt Emergency Child Care Programs open?

Each program will determine its own hours. Parents should reach out directly to the programs to learn their hours. EEC will keep an updated list of programs on its site beginning at 12:00 P.M. on Saturday, March 21, 2020.

Will there be transportation provided to the Exempt Emergency Child Care Programs?

No. At this time we are putting all of EEC’s resources toward launching emergency care to support vulnerable children and the children of families who are required to work to maintain the health, safety, and welfare of all Commonwealth citizens as well as maintaining our system of providers for vulnerable families once the crisis is over.

Will I be required to pay to enroll my child at an Exempt Emergency Program?

No. The Commonwealth will provide funding to support the operation of the programs.

My child is enrolled in subsidized care. Will my child still be eligible for care once all programs reopen?

Yes. The temporary closure of all child care programs will not impact any eligibility for care.

My child care program closed. Do you have resources for parents?

We are working with our provider network to compile educational resources for families at home with children during this challenging time. This list will continue to be updated.

Frequently Asked Questions for Providers

How do I open as an Exempt Emergency Child Care Program?

As of Monday, March 23, 2020, to operate in the Commonwealth, a child care program must first complete the EEC Emergency Child Care Program Approval and Background Record Check process. Programs will be expedited for approval if they have a current license, are staffed with educators with confirmed Background Record Checks, and have undergone a site visit within the last six months.

Programs must adhere to strict safety and health standards established by the Department of Public Health (“DPH”) and Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

EEC and DPH are working closely to develop specific regulations for safe emergency care, including staffing standards, plans for meals, hygiene, cleaning and more; those regulations are forthcoming.

Will emergency child care workers get priority testing for COVID-19?

Yes. DPH Staff will prioritize emergency childcare workers that are exposed or symptomatic for testing of COVID-19.

How do I continue to receive payment from the state for subsidized children?

Providers will continue to receive child care subsidy payments from the state; the Commonwealth will also cover the cost of parent fees for subsidized families. This ensures that programs will be able to re-open once the crisis is over. Information for programs on how to bill for this time is forthcoming.

I do not provide child care to subsidized children. Are there resources available to me?

We recognize that businesses are losing critical revenue in this uncertain time. EEC has confirmed that the state financial resources listed here apply to early childhood care providers. We are assessing all funding options and will provide further guidance as soon as possible.

I am an educator in a closed program. Are there resources available to me?

Providers who enroll subsidized children are strongly encouraged to continue to pay their employees. Educators at providers that do not care for subsidized children can apply for unemployment benefits.

>> You can find additional information on coronavirus here