Governor Charlie Baker ordered all child-care programs across the state closed by Monday. The only child care centers that can remain open are those selected as “Exempt Emergency Child Care Programs” for the children of essential workers. This is not intended to be a replacement for traditional child-care. It is an emergency program.
The Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care released information for parents who want to apply for emergency care here: https://eeclead.force.com/apex/EEC_ChildCareEmergencyParents
The list of approved emergency child-care providers is available here: https://eeclead.force.com/resource/1584812870000/EEC_EmergencyProviderList
Below are answers to some frequently asked questions, which will be regularly updated:
Who is eligible?
Vulnerable families and workers who have no other option. Those with friends or relatives who can provide backup child care should not apply. Priority will be given to people including — but not limited to — health care workers, essential state workers, COVID-19 health workers, grocery store employees, emergency response personnel, law enforcement, transportation and infrastructure workers, sanitation workers, families involved with the Department of Children and Families, and families living in shelters.
How much does it cost?
Nothing. The Commonwealth will fund the operation of these programs.
How can I find out if I qualify and where do I apply?
Start with the list of emergency child-care providers the department released. Look for an approved program in your region. Directly contact that day-care provider about your particular circumstances to ask if there is a slot available.
Who decides who gets the slots?
The emergency child-care providers, with guidance from the EEC regional office, will make decisions about who qualifies for care, based on the needs of the families that apply. Again, this is intended as emergency care, not a replacement for traditional child-care.
How quickly will families learn if their child has a spot?
Parents will get answers quickly and directly from the approved programs.
Will any child care centers be open at night?
Each program will determine its own hours. Parents should reach out directly to the programs.
Will there be transportation provided to the Exempt Emergency Child Care Programs?
Will emergency child care workers get priority testing for COVID-19?
Yes. Department of Public Health Staff will prioritize emergency childcare workers that are exposed or symptomatic for testing of COVID-19.
How long will other day care centers be closed?
From midnight Sunday until at least April 6.
My children’s day care center is charging full tuition even while it’s closed. Are day cares allowed to do that?
Yes, in many cases. You probably signed an agreement with your daycare provider. It may stipulate that you have to pay tuition to maintain your child’s spot in the program. That agreement may be valid even if the daycare center is temporarily closed. However, check the language to see if it allows for cancellations or refunds.
Also, talk to your daycare provider to try to work out a resolution. The state has encouraged all programs to be flexible with parents during this time.
If you have trouble coming to a resolution with the child care provider, you can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office online at https://www.mass.gov/how-to/file-a-consumer-complaint. The Attorney General acknowledges the hardship on families paying child care costs, but also realizes that without some source of income, daycare centers may not be able to reopen when the crisis ends. The office received 58 complaints as of Friday and is monitoring the situation.
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.
Stephanie Ebbert can be reached at Stephanie.Ebbert@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @StephanieEbbert.