Virginia has temporarily expanded eligibility for child care subsidies to include those looking for work and families who make less than 85% of the average income in Virginia.
Emily Griffey, chief policy officer for Voices for Virginia’s Children, said that the Child Care Subsidy Program was an underutilized resource and participation in the program had declined.
“Parents' lives were disrupted, some programs were closed, they were losing employment,” Griffey said. “What's great about this new option is that it increases the eligibility for parents when they are looking for work.”
The program provides assistance for the costs of taking care of children under age 13.
The expanded eligibility came through a bill sponsored by Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn. It applies to families with a child under 5 earning up to 85% of the average income in Virginia. Previously applicants had to be employed to qualify, but applicants looking for work now qualify. A provision that required participation in a child support enforcement program also doesn’t apply to the newly eligible.
$203.6 million in federal stimulus money is funding the program. Some of the funds would go towards a fourth disbursement of stabilization grants, which aim to support child care programs in light of increased costs and staffing shortages because of the pandemic.
According to the governor’s office, 90 percent of child care center programs have reopened after being closed by the pandemic last year. These businesses often are staffed by women. Griffey said it's also important that these workers, which often make little above minimum wage are considered in strengthening Virginia’s child care options.
“One of the reasons why we need to find additional funding for early care and education is because parents can't afford to pay any more and the workforce can't afford to earn any less.”
Families have until July 31st to apply for the subsidies. Once approved, they’d get them for a year.