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Child care subsidy program expanded

Gov. Ralph Northam recently announced Virginia families with young children will have improved access to quality, affordable child care through an extension of the expanded Child Care Subsidy Program.

Earlier this year, Governor Northam signed House Bill 2206, which established a new short-term eligibility category for parents seeking financial assistance for child care while looking for employment and temporarily increased the income eligibility criteria through July 31. The governor has directed the Virginia Department of Education to use existing federal funding to continue covering co-payments for families through December 31.

“Access to high-quality child care is not only critical to the health and safety of Virginia’s children, but it is also important for advancing a strong, equitable recovery,” Northam said. “Extending these resources through the end of 2021 will help close the affordability gap for parents and providers, allowing thousands of Virginians to return to work, support their families and grow our economy.”

The expanded Child Care Subsidy Program makes financial assistance for child care available to families with at least one child under age 5 who is not yet in kindergarten, with a household income up to 85% of the state median income. This expansion nearly doubles the previous income threshold in many regions of the commonwealth and is the highest eligibility level in Virginia history. Families approved for the subsidy will remain eligible to receive benefits for 12 months, or until their income exceeds 85% of the state median income. More than 1,000 additional Virginia families were receiving child care assistance through the expanded Child Care Subsidy Program as of July 1.

“Our team has visited programs in every region of the commonwealth this year and the benefits of in-person instruction for our littlest learners are clear,” First Lady Pamela Northam said. “Virginia’s early educators are truly superheroes, and we want to ensure all families have access to these vital programs.”

As of June 2021, more than 90% of licensed early childhood programs in Virginia were open, yet enrollment in the Child Care Subsidy Program was only 78% of what it was prior to the pandemic. The effort to continue assistance coincides with projected increases in demand for child care as parents and caregivers seek new employment or return to in-person work settings.

The General Assembly allocated $62.1 million to the Department of Social Services and the Department of Education across state fiscal years 2021 and 2022 to expand access to the Child Care Subsidy Program. On July 1, the Department of Education became the lead agency for oversight of early childhood care and education programs in Virginia, a change that will help build a more unified and equitable system.

On Wednesday, July 7, First Lady Northam will kick off a Child Care Access Month of Action with visits to early childhood care and education programs to raise awareness about these new resources.

For more information about child care assistance in Virginia or to apply for the Child Care Subsidy Program, visit ChildCareVA.com.