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Still have to work? Here’s how to find and pay for child care

As Gov. Roy Cooper’s stay-at-home order to slow the spread of the coronavirus prohibits more people from traveling to work, the state is encouraging child care centers that remain open to fill their growing vacancies with children of essential workers — parents who can’t stay home. If you’re one of those parents, here’s what you need to know.

To see whether your work falls into that “essential” category, check the stay-at-home order. Scroll to Section 2, which lists the essential services and businesses that are allowed to continue operating — such as health care, infrastructure, transportation, and certain educational and governmental institutions.

You can then find child care options at 1-888-600-1685 on weekdays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is also rolling out an emergency subsidy program to cover the cost of child care in April and May for parents who:

  • Are considered essential workers by the order,
  • Fall below 300% of the federal poverty line,
  • And have no other child care options.

Applications for the subsidy can be found here. You can print out the form or ask to fill one out when you arrive at a child care center, said Kristi Snuggs, interim director for DHHS’s Division of Child Development and Early Education, in a webinar Monday.

Center staff members are being advised to trust that parents who sign the forms meet the three requirements. Snuggs told centers to ensure that the form is filled out completely, to keep the forms at the center, and to record attendance for those children. Centers are not allowed to charge copayments to parents in the program.

The subsidy program will pay for care for children from infancy to 12 years old. Go here to see the federal poverty-line income guidelines for the number of people who live in your household. Multiply that number by three to calculate the threshold for the subsidy program.

For those who qualify, the state will provide these amounts to centers for each child, per month:

From NC DHHS’s child care webinar presentation on Monday, March 30.

For parents who are already a part of the traditional child care subsidy program, Snuggs said, the state will pay for copayments for April and May. Parents who receive a subsidy but are enrolling their children at a new center should bring the subsidy voucher to the new center, she said.

The webinar presentation also advised centers to make vacant spots available to children who are homeless or in unsafe environments, as well as children receiving welfare services.

If you have questions about child care or early learning issues during the pandemic, the EdNC team will look for answers. Fill out the brief survey below to let us know what you need.

Liz Bell

Liz Bell is the early childhood reporter for EducationNC.