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January 21, 2021

Pennsylvania child care workers eligible to receive $600 pandemic relief grants

Day care workers were among those hit hardest by the lockdowns last spring

Government Child Care
Child Care Pandemic Relief Award Greg Wohlford/ERIE TIMES-NEWS

Child care employees in Pennsylvania are now eligible for a one-time, $600 relief award.

Some 33,000 child care workers in Pennsylvania are now eligible to receive $600 in pandemic relief. 

Licensed child care providers can begin applying on behalf of their employees. Any employee who earns less than $70,000 annually, works at least 20 hours per week and has been employed since Jan. 1 is eligible. 

Providers can apply for the grants through Feb. 12. The one-time awards will be doled out regionally on a first-come, first-served basis.

"A healthy, vibrant child care industry is a cornerstone of a healthy economy," Gov. Tom Wolf said Thursday. "As with many other sectors of our economy, Pennsylvania's child care providers have been greatly challenged by this pandemic. We are incredibly grateful for their commitment to our children and families and their resilience through this time."

Child care professionals have spent the past year adapting to unprecedented challenges to keep children safe during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Child care centers were forced to temporarily close at the onset of the public health crisis, cutting off income streams for employees, according to research examining the impact COVID-19 had on state child care. The study, conducted by Penn State Harrisburg's Institute of State and Regional Affairs, helped inform the way the grant funding will be distributed. 

"As attendance increases upon program reopening, tuition and subsidy revenues often lag behind expenses," the study said. "Payroll is the largest of these expenses, and providers worry that they will have insufficient cash to rehire and pay teachers during the weeks following reopening."

Applications are being administered through local Early Learning Resource Centers on behalf of the Office of Child Development and Early Learning. The grant will replace the Education and Retention Award, which benefits 9,000 employees, during the current fiscal year. 

The funds stem from the federal Child Care Development Fund and the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. About $220 million in CARES funding has been allocated to support child care providers across the state since the start of the pandemic. 

Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller urged all providers to apply for the grants on behalf of their staff.

"Child care workers shape and care for our youngest minds during some of their most formative years, and a safe, loving child care center can be an extension of family for parents and children who rely on their work," Miller said.

More funds could be on the way as well. Congress allocated an additional $10 billion in latest stimulus package. That funding will be divided among the states in the coming weeks.


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