Tennessee to provide free child care for essential workers during pandemic

Posted at 1:33 PM, Apr 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-22 14:50:17-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The State of Tennessee has announced it will provide free child care for essential employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Tennessee Department of Human Services said its COVID-19 Essential Employee Child Care Payment Assistance program is designed to help support essential workers so they can stay on the job during state of emergency until June 15, 2020.

Applications for payment assistance will be accepted online throughout the state of emergency here. After an essential employee is approved for the program, the state will arrange to pay for child care at the TDHS licensed program where the child is currently served.

For parents whose children are not already receiving care at a licensed program, you can find a list of licensed child care agencies that can accept children of essential workers here. Once the child is enrolled and the essential employee is approved, TDHS will arrange to pay for that child care.

The department is also working with the YMCA and the Boys & Girls Clubs in Tennessee to provide free child care for school aged children of essential workers. This program will create a network of temporary/emergency child care locations across the state.

Essential employees will be able to register at these locations and access care at no charge. Parents seeking care at these temporary locations, do not need to apply with TDHS first.

Once they're set up, a listing of YMCA and Boys & Girls Club temporary/emergency care locations will be available for the YMCA here and the Boys & Girls Clubs here.

To be eligible for either program, you “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. TDHS hopes to lessen the financial burden for these essential employees, whether they are using licensed child care or accessing a temporary child care location.”

For essential employees that are also navigating parenthood during the pandemic, the news came as a welcome surprise.

"I'm super excited that they're trying to offer this, but it is super scary to think that it's come to this," Shakeya Richardson said. Richardson said she had already applied just hours after the new program was announced. She said the plan would help parents financially, but also help ease their stress during uncertain times.

"It's going to be a tremendous help financially," Richardson said. "Also in the stress area, it'll just make it a little easier for parents to be able to go to work."