The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) announced on Tuesday, April 7, that it is providing financial assistance to help essential workers afford child care – and it’s also offering bonuses to child care teachers and staff who are providing that care during the coronavirus crisis.

NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen said that workers who are keeping things running right now – manning supermarkets, maintaining utilities and much more – may need help with child care.

That’s especially true since schools across the state have been closed.

“Child care is an essential service as we respond to the COVID-19 crisis,” Cohen stated in an April 7 press release. “Our health care professionals caring for those who are sick, grocery workers who are restocking shelves, and truck drivers delivering packages to our doors all need child care so that they can go to work – and we want to be sure child care teachers and programs have support in providing safe, quality care.”

The state’s social services division has established an “Emergency Child Care Subsidy Program,” one meant for essential workers as that term is defined in the state’s Friday, March 27 statewide order: Executive Order 121.

Now, child care related financial assistance for those workers will be offered through May and that could be extended. In order to receive an emergency care subsidy, parents must complete the COVID-19 Parent Application for Financial Assistance for Emergency Child Care and then submit it to their provider.

Financial aid is available to parents and caregivers who meet the following criteria:

  • Their income is below 300 percent of the poverty line;
  • They are an “essential worker” fighting COVID-19 or “protecting the health and safety of communities”;
  • They feel they have no other viable child care options available.

The state has also set up a hotline, in partnership with the NC Child Care Resource and Referral Network. That line is 888-600-1685 and is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Summerfield Town Councilmember Teresa Pegram, who operates a daycare, said that the state had recently notified her and other daycares of the policy changes. She also said some of those businesses have closed due to the crisis – but those that remain open will get bonuses from the state if they’re willing to take on the children of essential workers.

Child care teachers and staff that work in programs serving essential workers will see bonuses in their pay in April and May. NCDHHS will pay those programs staying open to serve essential workers, $300 a month for each full-time teacher and $200 a month for each full-time, non-teaching staff member – including administrators, janitors and other support staff. Those bonus payments will be paid by the child care programs to all eligible staff during their regular pay periods. Part-time workers are eligible for prorated bonuses.