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The Office of Early Childhood announced Friday that it would continue making payments for child care services until June 30, even if the kids are not currently attending these centers.

The Office of Early Childhood said it will do everything it can to help make sure child care programs can survive even if they had to close their doors because of COVID-19.

The funding streams protected during this time include funding for School Readiness, Child Day Care, Smart Start, and Care 4 Kids. Those programs serve children ranging from birth through age 12.

Merrill Gay, executive director of the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance, said many providers were getting ready to layoff staff today without the promise of funding. He said they are grateful for the commitment.

However, he pointed out that this only helps programs with children participating in these programs.

Office of Early Childhood Commissioner Beth Bye said more than half of the state’s early childhood programs have closed, but even the ones that closed have operating expenses.

“This is an incredibly fragile industry,” Bye added.

She acknowledged the lack of help for private daycare programs that have closed. She said they are working to see what help they can get them through the federal and state small business programs.

Technically, child care programs can remain open if they are small and have a 10 kids to 1 adult staffing ratio, but Bye said many parents are keeping their children at home or close to home. She said many programs don’t have enough kids to support their operations at this time.

Public schools began closing the week of March 16 even though Gov. Ned Lamont didn’t mandate it and many childcare centers began to close around that time. Lamont recently mandated that public schools stay closed until April 20.

Gay said any childcare or daycare without children in these government sponsored programs will have to look at the small business loans coming from the federal and state government if they want to continue to operate. Many work on the margins so if they don’t have any tuition coming in then they are likely looking at laying off staff and figuring out if they will be able to make it however long it takes to get back to normal.

The Office of Early Childhood will also be releasing up to $4.5 million in Public Health Emergency Response Grant Funds to incentivize and support public and private programs that re-open or remain open to provide child care for children of health workers and first responders. These funds will be available only while Gov. Ned Lamont’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order is in effect.

“This commitment of funding is an essential lifeline to providers so they can operate today and into the future,” Bye, said. “It also recognizes the heroic work of child care providers care for children during this public health emergency, and helps assure a supply of child care.”

Lamont said he understands the funding is “critical for Connecticut’s workforce infrastructure.”

Connecticut’s child care industry is fiscally fragile.

Many of the providers told the Office of Early Childhood that a closure lasting longer than two weeks would force them to close their doors. 

And while it won’t help all child care providers, this funding will keep programs intact and able to serve our essential workers during this unprecedented public health emergency.

The School Readiness program serves children ages 3 and 4 in 67 communities.  The Child Day Care program serves infants and toddlers, 3 and 4 year olds, and school-age children up to age 13 in 47 communities.  Smart Start serves children ages 3 and 4 year in 24 public school districts.  Care 4 Kids is a federally-state funded child care subsidy for primarily working families serving children infancy through age 13 statewide.