State agencies work to ease childcare burden as schools close statewide

The Missouri Departments of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and Social Services have taken regulatory action to aid child care providers and families during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, by temporarily expanding the age range and number of children licensed child care providers can accommodate, issuing short-term licenses and expanding operating hours.

The Missouri Department of Social Services has also stepped in, expanding child care subsidy benefits and enrollment periods.

The changes follow statewide closures of public schools as communities implement measures to help stop the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus identified late last year.”We recognize that child care is an essential component of fighting COVID-19,” said DHSS Director Dr. Randall Williams. “Health care and another emergency medical personnel must have appropriate arrangements for their children to ensure they can provide the health care and other essential services needed by our communities.” To help, DHSS’s Section for Child Care Regulation (SCCR) has taken the following steps: During the period of time that schools are closed, licensed child care providers may use the rules regarding emergency school closings. This allows licensed programs to accommodate enrolled school-age children who need care. The provider will be permitted to exceed the license capacity of the facility by one-third.
The SCCR has developed a process to allow for the temporary care of preschool- and school-age children. Short term licenses for a 45-day period are available. These licenses, which are renewable, will be based on an abbreviated inspection that focuses on key health and safety indicators. Additionally, SCCR has loosened some regulations for licensed child care providers to allow them to extend their hours of care, and eased administrative burdens related to recordkeeping requirements, officials said. “COVID-19 has created additional challenges for low-income Missourians who receive Child Care Subsidy benefits,” said Department of Social Services (DSS) Acting Director Jennifer Tidball. “To ensure those child care needs are met and children remain safe, the Department of Social Services is helping families and the child care providers enrolled in the Child Care Subsidy program cope with the impact of COVID-19.” DSS has extended child care subsidy program benefits for 90 days, has included additional hours of care due to school closure or if the parent is required to work additional hours and extended child care subsidy provider application renewals for 90 days. The DHSS/SCCR and DSS are also working closely with Child Care Aware of Missouri, a child care resource and referral agency. Child Care Aware of Missouri is a resource and referral agency that assists parents in locating child care.

Parents who are looking for child care can call 866-892-3228 to speak with a referral specialist. They can also access these services online at www.mo.childcareaware. There is no cost to parents for these services. Child care subsidy benefit recipients who need additional child care hours or any low-income families who want to apply for assistance with child care costs are encouraged to reach out to the Family Support Division for help.

Missourians can do business with the Family Support Division without leaving home.

They can apply for services online by visiting MyDSS.mo.gov, by calling 1-855-FSD-INFO, or in person at their nearest Family Support Division Resource Center.

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