State officials announced a plan on Monday to provide free child care to essential employees, like health care workers and first responders, while school is out during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We recognize that the closure of schools in many childcare centers as part of the COVID-19 pandemic has created both an increased need and a lack of access to child care here in the state of Utah,” said Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox in a press conference on Monday. “This issue is most critically felt among our most essential employees working on the frontlines to keep our communities safe and healthy-- our health care and public health workers, our law enforcement and first responders.”
In response to this, Cox said state officials would be starting a program called One Utah Child Care, which would provide free, temporary child care to specifically serve the families of essential employees in the state.
Child care centers throughout the state will begin opening this week and will be available Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. For school-aged children, support for distance learning will be provided.
“The locations will be staffed by individuals who've received background checks, and have received pre-service training through child care licensing and they'll remain open for as long as schools are closed,” said Tracy Gruber with the Utah Office of Child Care. “In addition, for our essential workers who aren't going to be able to use these sites, maybe they're working overnight shifts, and on weekends, that One Utah Child Care system is maintaining a list of caregivers who have been background checked and have received pre-service orientation and who are willing to work in people's homes. And those arrangements will be made individually between the essential employees and those caregivers.
Gruber said these options may not serve all Utahns and that other providers are still open and providing care that follows social distancing protocol. She said the Department of Workforce Services has expanded who can qualify for child care assistance and that families who did not previously qualify may be eligible now.