by Jon Styf
Tennessee residents eligible for the Child Care Certificate Program are getting a 10% increase in benefits.
The program assists those who are in need of help with child care while they work or attend school.
Eligibility for the Child Care Certificate program is determined by a variety of factors, including Families First eligibility, parents enrolled in post-secondary education, children in foster care and teen parents.
Payments go directly to child care providers, and the October increase in assistance is part of additional federal funding from the Child Care and Development Fund. The state has a table of how much each family is eligible to receive.
Providers that care for children with disabilities or special needs also will receive a 15% bonus.
“Many child care providers have continuously and consistently served families throughout the pandemic, enabling parents to work and children to continue their critical early learning,” Tennessee Department of Human Services Commissioner Clarence Carter said. “This rate increase will create incentives to grow the child care industry and remove some of the barriers that make it challenging for parents to enter the workforce and support their families.”
Pandemic bonuses have added to Tennessee’s certificate program in a significant way in recent years. The fiscal year 2021-22 estimate of spending for the program is $162 million.
In fiscal year 2020-21, spending was $157.4 million, and in fiscal year 2019-20, it was $99.8 million, according to TDHS.
During portions of the COVID-19 pandemic, co-pay fees were waived and eligibility periods were extended, the department’s annual report said.
Tennessee also had offered the Pandemic/Essential Employee Child Care Payment Assistance Program, which included a partnership with the YMCA and Boys & Girls Clubs to create temporary child care locations for school-aged children of essential workers. The program, funded by federal and state funds, spent $392 million in funding between when it began in April 2020 and when it ended Aug. 31.
Families with parents in several essential categories of workers, including health care, emergency response, transportation, utility, food and grocery staff, were eligible for the assistance.
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Jon Styf is an award-winning editor and reporter who has worked in Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan in local newsrooms over the past 20 years, working for Shaw Media, Hearst, The Center Square and several other companies.
Photo “Child Care” by Grant Barrett. CC BY 2.0.