Tennessee expands, extends free child care offer for essential workers

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The Tennessee Department of Human Services announced it is extending and expanding its program that offers free child care to essential workers during the COVID-19.

The COVID-19 Essential Employee Child care Payment Assistance Program will now continue through mid-August, and now includes all categories of essential workers identified in Gov. Bill Lee's Executive Order 22.

Existing applicants who fit into one of the expanded categories do not need to apply again, even if they were previously denied or their application is still in process.

TDHS is reviewing and reevaluating those previously submitted applications under the expanded employment categories.

“This program is an example of how our state has prepared for an emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic through sound fiscal management our child care dollars,” said TDHS Commissioner
Danielle W. Barnes. “Tennessee is in a unique position to support a wide range of essential workers during this time of uncertainty. We’re making sure child care is accessible to those who are continuing to serve our communities. Alleviating this burden for so many families is essential as we continue to build a thriving Tennessee.”

Applications for the COVID-19 Essential Employee Child Care Payment Assistance program will be accepted online.

After essential workers are approved for the program, TDHS officials will make arrangements to pay for child care at the TDHS licensed or Tenn. Department of Education regulated program where the child is being served.

Regardless of when an application was submitted or approved, the benefit will be effective on the first day of the program, April 15, 2020, if the child was in care at that time.

For those parents whose children are not already receiving care at a licensed program, a list of licensed child care agencies that are open and able to accept children of essential workers is available on the TDHS website here.

Once the child is enrolled in care and the essential employee is approved for payment assistance, TDHS will make arrangements to pay for that child care as well.

TDHS expects the number of licensed child care agencies that are open and available for this program to grow over the coming weeks.

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