Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

FAQ: Status of the Mass. Early Education Sector During and Beyond the Coronavirus Outbreak

Image for post

Introduction

Quality early education and care (EEC) is not only critical for helping young children to learn and grow, it’s also vital to our economy by providing support for working parents. The current public health and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is dramatically impacting the provision of early education and care for young children in the Commonwealth.

The disruption to early education programs is occurring while the broader effects are felt across the health system, economy, and in the daily lives of all residents adjusting to the unprecedented measures to slow down the spread of COVID-19. This means most child care programs are shut down due to the public health crisis and will need support from state and federal governments if they are to reopen when the crisis is over.

What is the Current Status of Early Education and Care in Massachusetts?

There is significant risk for the coronavirus to spread among sizable groups of people such as those in and around early education centers, including children, teachers, and families. Several days after a state of emergency was declared by Governor Baker for all of Massachusetts, regular early education programs were closed starting March 23rd through early April. The order was subsequently extended two times, now through at least June 29th. [1]

How Does Emergency Early Education and Child Care Work in Massachusetts? Who is Eligible?

The Commonwealth has established an emergency early education and care program for essential frontline workers responding to the COVID-19 crisis, such as medical personnel, first responders, transit operators, sanitation workers, grocery, and pharmacy workers who may still require child care.

This is targeted for frontline workers in cases where other options (such as staying at home with a family member) are unavailable. This program will remain in operation during the shutdown of regular programs. [2]

The emergency early education program is entirely state funded, for essential workers as defined by the state, as well as for the most vulnerable children (such as homeless kids and those under the care of the Department and Children and Families) regardless of their family employment situation. [3]

Who is Providing Emergency Early Education Services? How Do Families Apply?

The statewide shutdown of regular EEC programs made an exception for programs that agreed to participate in the emergency child care program discussed above. As of April 30th, about 500 early education providers across the state, including centers and family daycares, have chosen to run emergency programs. [4] Parents in need of care have to contact providers directly to arrange care and fill out enrollment forms. [5]

What Will Happen to Publicly-Funded EEC and Head Start Programs During this Crisis?

The Commonwealth will continue to pay all subsidized providers for state-supported children and also incur extra costs to cover the family fees for subsidized kids during the public health emergency. [6] This should assist centers, who serve state-supported kids and families, to continue to remain afloat, pay staff and cover other expenses. Additionally, Head Start programs will continue to pay staff during closures. Head Start can operate some of their food programs in a modified manner in line with social distancing and public health and safety guidelines. [7]

How Much Federal Aid Can Massachusetts Expect for Early Education and Care Programs?

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Massachusetts is slated to receive an estimated $45.7 million in Child Care Development Block Grants as part of the federal coronavirus response bill (CARES Act). [8] Massachusetts’ Head Start programs that are federally funded, are also likely to receive part of the $750 million nationwide allocation of new Head Start funding which is particularly focused on expanding summer offerings. [9] The federal government has not announced exactly how much of this overall fund will go to Massachusetts programs. If the share for our state is similar to our Head Start enrollment, the Commonwealth would be in line for roughly $10.5 million. [10]

Additionally, state and local governments in Massachusetts are expected to receive $2.67 billion in support from the CARES Act to fund immediate responses to COVID-19. [11] It is possible that the emergency child care program could be considered among the many urgent needs that can be supported through this funding. However, further guidance from the federal government and deliberations at the state level are necessary to determine how this funding will be used.

Are the Current State and Federal Efforts Enough to Stabilize the Mass. Early Education Sector?

Recently-passed federal legislation provides additional support for federal child care block grants and Head Start centers. However, these measures do not cover the entire early education sector, particularly providers that primarily serve families who do not receive state subsidies.

The closure of regular child care in the Commonwealth has the potential to spark a financial crisis for many providers. This could happen due to the interruption of tuition payments, providers’ primary source of income. Individual providers, often on an ad-hoc basis, have to determine whether or not families will continue to pay tuition during this crisis. The Attorney General has provided guidance that encourages providers and parents to follow pre-existing contracts, honor parents’ right to cancel services, and receive refunds if that is allowed. [12] Many families are facing significant income losses that reduce their ability to support providers even if they want to. In turn, early education providers facing steep drops in revenue could be unable to pay staff, rent, and insurance costs. Without additional assistance from the federal or state governments some child care providers could close permanently. According to a recent survey, 27% of Massachusetts EEC providers reported they would need external support to remain solvent if closures extend beyond two weeks. [13] If early education programs open on June 29th, the closure will have lasted over 12 weeks.

It is possible for private early education providers to use the broad federal relief programs that support small businesses, such as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and that support workers who are laid off through expanded Unemployment Insurance (UI). [14] However, these programs are facing unprecedented demand and the PPP may not receive ongoing funds from the federal government. The PPP quickly ran out of its initial $350 billion, leading to a second infusion of $320 billion from Congress in late April. [15] Moving forward, a targeted loan program that is specifically targeted to child care providers would likely better serve the EEC sector.

Maintaining a system of quality early education and care where all young kids can safely learn and grow in an enriching environment is vital to our children and to the recovery of our economy by allowing parents to return to work. It is clear, given the extended closure of centers in response to the public health crisis, that the state and federal governments will have to provide more resources to ensure that the early education sector weathers the current crisis and can reopen when children return to school and parents to work. In its upcoming research, MassBudget will examine a range of measures that the Commonwealth, in partnership with the federal government, can provide to support and preserve early education and care in Massachusetts.

ENDNOTES

[1] Charles D. Baker and Karyn E. Polito. “Order Temporarily Closing All Child Care Programs and Authorizing the Temporary Creation and Operation of Emergency Child Care Programs.” Office of the Governor, Commonwealth of Massachusetts. March 18, 2020. https://www.mass.gov/doc/march-18-2020-early-education-and-care-order/download

Sarah Finlaw. “Baker-Polito Administration Announces Extension of School and Non-Emergency Child Care Program Closures and Steps to Ensure Housing Stability To Support COVID-19 Response.” Office of the Governor, Commonwealth of Massachusetts. March 25, 2020. https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-announces-extension-of-school-and-non-emergency-child-care-program

Charles D. Baker and Karyn E. Polito. “Baker-Polito Administration Announces Extension of School and Non-Emergency Child Care Program Closures, Continued Steps to Support COVID-19 Response.” Office of the Governor, Commonwealth of Massachusetts. April 21, 2020. https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-announces-extension-of-school-and-non-emergency-child-care-0

[2] Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care. “Exempt Emergency Child Care Program Guidance for Parents.” March 30, 2020. https://eeclead.force.com/resource/1585583160000/Guidance_For_Families

[3] Stephanie Ebbert. “How will Massachusetts’ Emergency Child-Care Centers Work?” Boston Globe. March 20, 2020. https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/03/20/metro/how-will-massachusetts-emergency-child-care-centers-work/

[4] Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care. “Emergency Child Care Information — Emergency Child Care Directory.” April 2020. https://eeclead.force.com/apex/EEC_ChildCareEmergencyParents

[5] Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care. “Emergency Child Care Information — For Children and Families” April 2020. https://eeclead.force.com/apex/EEC_ChildCareEmergencyParents

[6] Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care. “Emergency Child Care Information — For Children and Families” April 2020. https://eeclead.force.com/apex/EEC_ChildCareEmergencyParents

[7] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — Administration for Children and Families, Office of Head Start. “Staff Wages and Benefits” April 6, 2020. https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/about-us/coronavirus/staff-wages-benefits

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — Administration for Children and Families, Office of Head Start. “Providing Meals, Snacks, and Diapers to Children” April 22, 2020. https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/about-us/coronavirus/providing-meals-snacks-diapers-children

[8] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — Administration for Children and Families, Office of Child Care. “2020 CARES Act CCDBG Supplemental Funding Allocations For States and Territories.” April 15, 2020. https://www.acf.hhs.gov/occ/resource/2020-cares-act-ccdbg-supplemental-funding-allocations-for-states-and-territories

[9] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — Administration for Children and Families. “ACF-COVID-19-Stimulus.” 2020. https://www.acf.hhs.gov/coronavirus/acf-covid-19-stimulus

[10] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — Administration for Children and Families, Office of Head Start. “Head Start Program Facts: Fiscal Year 2018.” 2019. https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/about-us/article/head-start-program-facts-fiscal-year-2018

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — Administration for Children and Families. “ACF-COVID-19-Stimulus.” 2020. https://www.acf.hhs.gov/coronavirus/acf-covid-19-stimulus

[11] Grant A. Driessen. “The Coronavirus Relief Fund (CARES Act,Title V): Background and State and Local Allocations.” Congressional Research Service. April 14, 2020. pgs 2–3. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R46298

[12] Office of Attorney General Maura Healey . “Child Care and Other Resources for Families.” 2020. https://www.mass.gov/guides/resources-during-covid-19#-child-care-and-other-resources-for-families-

[13] National Association for the Education of Young Children. “A State-by-State Look at Child Care in Crisis Understanding Early Effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic.” March 27, 2020. pg. 9. https://www.naeyc.org/sites/default/files/globally-shared/downloads/PDFs/our-work/public-policy-advocacy/state_by_state_child_care_crisis_coronavirus_surveydata.pdf

[14] Phineas Baxandall. “Unemployment Insurance 101” . MassBudget. March 26, 2020. https://medium.com/this-is-not-a-drill/unemployment-insurance-101-547c7d8ca950

Third Sector New England. “Urgent Information for Nonprofits Applying for the CARES Act.” April, 16, 2020. https://www.tsne.org/blog/urgent-information-nonprofits-applying-cares-act

[15] Li Zhou. “The House Just Passed Another $480 Billion in Coronavirus Relief Aimed at Small Businesses. Vox. April 23, 2020. https://www.vox.com/2020/4/23/21232539/paycheck-protection-program-congress-stimulus

[16] Shirley Leung. “Coronavirus Could Burn Through Mass. Unemployment Insurance Fund by Summer. Boston Globe. April 8, 2020. https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/04/08/business/coronavirus-could-burn-through-mass-unemployment-insurance-fund-by-summer/

Related

Making sense of the Governor’s revised FY 2021 budget proposal

This was a presentation to a coalition of policy advocates, social service providers, and academics, to give members an overview of the Baker Administration’s revised …

Read More →

Envisioning Equity Part III: Reimagining Our Criminal Legal System

  For more information, view the presentation slides here.     *** The Envisioning Equity Series: Fall 2020 – MassBudget hosted a series of community …

Read More →

Envisioning Equity Part II: Housing to Build a Just Recovery

Watch the full recap to learn the housing policy challenges existing at the national, state, regional, and local levels and to explore ways that antiracist policy choices can help build housing for a just recovery.

Read More →
Scroll to Top

Get news from Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center in your inbox.

Select list(s) to subscribe to


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, 1 State Street, Boston, MA, 02109, http://www.massbudget.org. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact