The Tennessee Department of Human Services announced on Friday a new child care assistance program to support families in essential workforce positions.
According to a news release, parents who work as essential employees can access payment assistance and a network of temporary child care locations at no cost during the COVID-19 pandemic state of emergency until June 15.
Parents can submit applications for the COVID-19 Essential Employee Child Care Payment Assistance program here, and after an essential employee is approved, TDHS will make arrangements to pay for child care at the TDHS licensed program where the child is currently served.
TDHS said that the program is designed to help support essential workers so they can stay on the job during the public health emergency.
“Our first responders, medical professionals, and other essential workers who are continuing to serve citizens each day are the heartbeat of Tennessee right now,” TDHS Commissioner Danielle W. Barnes said. “We want to support these families the best we can and make sure that child care is accessible to them, so they can focus on their critical role is serving our communities.”
For those parents whose children are not already receiving care at a licensed program, TDHS has published a list of licensed child care agencies that are open and able to accept children of essential workers.
According to the news release, once the child is enrolled in a TDHS licensed program and the essential employee is approved for payment assistance, TDHS will then make arrangements to pay for the child care.
TDHS is also partnering with the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Clubs in Tennessee to establish free temporary/emergency child care for school-aged children of essential workers at locations across the state.
“The Boys & Girls Clubs in Tennessee is proud to answer our state’s call to provide childcare for essential service employees in all three of Tennessee grand divisions,” Boys and Girls Clubs in Tennessee Executive Director Ryan Hughes said in the news release. “Knowing firsthand what it means to have a spouse on the frontlines, I am proud that we can provide a safe place for youth to go during this time and receive innovative, high quality programs designed to empower youth to excel in school and lead healthy, productive lives.”
Essential employees with school-aged children who need care will be able to register at these locations and access care at no charge during the state of emergency. Parents seeking care at these temporary locations do not need to apply with TDHS first.
“We know that essential workers are putting themselves on the frontlines every day to provide services that our community desperately needs during this time,” Tennessee State Alliance Chair of YMCAs and President and CEO of the YMCA of Memphis and the Mid-South Jerry Martin said. “This is just one way the YMCA is able to support families, making sure that essential workers can have peace of mind that their children are being cared for in a safe place. We are glad to be able to join with DHS in subsidizing this care to make it available at no charge.”
To be eligible for either program, parents must be employees of a healthcare entity, law enforcement, first responders (EMS, Fire Departments, etc.), corrections officers, military, activated national guard, human and social services workers, postal workers, transportation employees, restaurant workers or grocery workers.
Last month TDHS began offering $10 million in grant assistance to licensed child care agencies to support financial losses and expenses created by the pandemic, as well as relaxed certain guidelines to allow organizations flexibility in delivering care while continuing to provide technical support to ensure the health and safety.
Funding for the COVID-19 Essential Employee Child Care Payment Assistance and other child care programs is provided through the federal Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) that provides funding to state programs that offer assistance to low-income families through subsidized child care, activities and services to improve the quality and availability of child care, and the regulation of child care agencies throughout the state.
To learn more about the Tennessee Department of Human Services visit www.tn.gov/humanservices.