New Hanover County residents who have child care needs caused or increased by the COVID-19 pandemic may be eligible for financial aid. The county announced recently it has allocated $1.3 million for child care and housing assistance.
“With schools transitioning to remote learning for the first 9 weeks of the school year, we understand the burden put on families to find safe and affordable child care options,” county officials stated in the announcement. “Child care assistance is available through participating licensed child care facilities in New Hanover County. Families in need of child care assistance for students ages 3 (NC Pre-K accepted or enrolled) to 12 years old should fill out the application and bring it to the participating child care provider. Eligibility will be determined by the participating child care provider.”
The pool of money comes from the N.C. General Assembly, which in May appropriated $300 million to the Local Government Coronavirus Relief Reserve. New Hanover County has received two allocations, totaling just over $8.6 million, from that fund.
Families must meet three criteria to qualify for the COVID-19 Child Care Assistance Program: Their children must be between 3 and 12, they must prove that their child care needs result from COVID-19 measures, and their household income must fall within 300% of the federal poverty level
. The federal poverty level begins at $17,240 for a two-person family.
Information about the program can be found here
, along with a list of child care facilities – currently numbering 33 – that are participating in the program.
Both locations of the Children’s Learning Center in Wilmington are among the providers.
The location on Darlington Avenue has space for new enrollees and was fortunate in securing a state license to serve children up to age 12, said director Keri Wray. The Children’s Learning Center accepts children as young as 12 months. The center’s normal enrollment is 90; right now it serves 65 children.
“Our enrollment has decreased because of COVID, so we have opened up a room to use for remote learning,” Wray said, adding that a survey of its parents indicated interest from 12 families in having their children do their online learning at the center.
“We have 11 children and two teachers, one of whom is elementary-certified, and we’ll cap our [remote learning] enrollment at 15 because of manpower,” she said. “Monday was our first day; it was a bit hairy, but we’re all pretty excited. I am pushing this out to my other families to make sure they are aware of it.”
The two teachers take attendance and help each student keep up with lessons and assignments. Since the students are different ages and are enrolled at different schools, there’s a lot for the teachers to juggle, Wray said.
The YWCA, a large-capacity child care provider, had made extensive arrangements to launch a remote learning program for its public pre-kindergarten and elementary age students. Then a COVID hiccup happened: Two of its staffers were exposed to a person who tested positive for the virus.
Following N.C. Department of Health and Human Services guidelines, the three-star, state-licensed child care facility has closed for two weeks. All staff members will be tested and confirmed prior to the facility reopening, CEO Velva Jenkins said.
Meanwhile, the facility is notifying its families about the availability of financial aid. Parents whose children are enrolled in public school pre-K programs can apply for the assistance, but children in the YWCA’s private pre-K program are not eligible.
“We have our regular enrollees that we are [helping] to apply for assistance, and we do have space for taking additional children,” Jenkins said. “Right now, the assistance is just for the first nine weeks of school that are being offered virtually. It’s my understanding that there could be more money available if the schools decide to extend the period of virtual learning.”
Thanks to support from the community, Jenkins added, the YWCA has been able to beef up its technology to handle the increased broadband that remote learning requires.