News

September 15, 2021

DHS Enforces Mask Mandates in Child Care

The Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) has issued clarification about the minimum necessary documentation that must be maintained by a child care provider to demonstrate a masking exemption and the enforcement actions that the Department of Human Services will take for noncompliant licensed child care providers.

Comply with Masking Mandate

Since September 7, 2021, all staff and children in K-12 schools and licensed child care facilities have been required to wear face coverings under an order issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Child care providers striving for compliance can work closely with certification representatives for strategies and resources to maintain full compliance.

Failure to implement measures for staff and children to follow the order subjects a child care provider to the following child care licensing enforcement actions:

  • Initial citations for non-compliance.

  • Failure to return a license inspection summary with an acceptable Plan of Correction (POC) within ten (10) calendar days after notification of noncompliance may result in the DHS denying, refusing to renew or revoking your certificate of compliance.

  • A downgrade to a Provisional Certificate of Compliance as a result of noncompliance to the order will result in the inability to apply for, or receive, a Child Care Stabilization Grant.

  • Continued non-compliance may result in continued enforcement action up to and including issuance of an Emergency Removal Order. Citations will not be issued to providers where there are temporary instances when staff and children are not wearing their face mask but there is intent to comply with the order.

Process for Exemptions to the Face Covering Order

Any child care facility simply permitting a parent’s/caretaker’s sign-off without medical documentation that the child has a medical or mental health condition or disability that precludes the wearing of a face covering is not in compliance with the order.

Under the order, child care facilities must require all individuals, two years of age and older, to wear face coverings unless the individual has an exemption. While there are exceptions, a parent’s/caretaker’s opposition to the order is not one of them.

Before an individual is exempt from the face covering requirements, all alternatives to a face covering, including a face shield, are to be exhausted.

Parents/caretakers indicating their child is exempted from wearing a face covering due to a medical condition must have individualized documentation from the child’s physician. Form letters and parental/caretaker notes are not sufficient for documentation of compliance.

Parents/caretakers and staff must submit appropriate documentation that is signed by a medical professional to the child care provider by September 21, 2021.

More Information

For more information, read the full masking order and OCDEL’s Announcement C-21-08: Compliance with Acting Secretary of Health’s Face Covering Order. For more news, visit our news page.

News

June 28, 2021

Early Learning Pennsylvania Response to 2021-22 State Budget

The principal partners of Early Learning Pennsylvania (ELPA), a statewide coalition of advocates focused on supporting young Pennsylvanians from birth to age five, believes the Commonwealth’s economic recovery hinges on helping working families by prioritizing greater state investments in high-quality pre-k, child care and evidence-based home visiting. ELPA operates four issue-based advocacy campaigns: Pre-K for PA, Start Strong PA, Childhood Begins at Home, and Thriving PA. Reaction statements from three of these campaigns regarding the FY 2021-22 state budget follow:

Pre-K

“Pre-K for PA applauds the $25 million in new state funding for Pre-K Counts and $5 million for Head Start Supplemental Assistance as part of the 2021-22 PA State Budget. This funding continues the commonwealth’s tradition of expanding access to high-quality pre-k – providing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to more than 3,200 additional young learners. 

“Research shows that high-quality pre-k benefits children’s cognitive, social and emotional development. A new study by the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill confirmed that the commonwealth’s investment in pre-k pays dividends for the children fortunate enough to access pre-k through the Pre-K Counts program. In language and math skills, the study showed that these kids outperformed their kindergarten peers who did not enjoy access—an advantage that equated to four to five months of learning gains. Even with this budget increase, more than 100,000 eligible three- and four-year-olds still lack access to high-quality pre-k.”

Child Care

“The General Assembly and the Wolf Administration unfortunately missed the opportunity to prioritize families who are struggling to return to work. Ignoring recommendations developed with input from over 1,000 child care providers and parents, Pennsylvania’s elected leadership has fallen significantly short on ensuring American Rescue Plan child care funds are used to help families find and afford high-quality child care and to stabilize the industry.

“Given that 70% of Pennsylvania children under the age of five had all adults in their household in the labor force prior to the pandemic, high-quality child care is an essential workforce support. That workforce must be able to return to work for Pennsylvania to recover from the pandemic’s economic devastation.  

“We now call on the Wolf Administration to prioritize and implement our recommendations for Pennsylvania’s $1.2 billion in American Rescue Plan child care funding. With nearly 700 child care programs permanently closed and over 350 temporarily closed, families are struggling to find child care. Those child care providers that have managed to stay open are still incurring additional pandemic-related costs while operating significantly under capacity and are struggling to attract and retain teachers.

“Not only is there less child care capacity in the system, only 42% of certified child care capacity currently meets high-quality standards. And only 39% of infants and toddlers that receive subsidized care attend programs that have met high-quality standards. High-quality care and education mean safer, healthier children and are critical to maximizing the period of a child’s most rapid brain growth. 

 “Start Strong PA’s recommendations for American Rescue Plan child care funding will stabilize, strengthen and ultimately secure the child care industry. This industry is critical to the success of our economic recovery.”

Evidence-Based Home Visiting

“On behalf of the pregnant women, children, and families who would benefit the most from evidence-based home visiting – especially those disproportionately impacted by the pandemic – Childhood Begins at Home is dismayed that there is no increase in the state budget for these voluntary services backed by decades of research.

“Without funding increases to reach more Pennsylvania families, the unmet need remains at a staggering 95%. The Community-Based Family Centers line will be level-funded, and the Nurse-Family Partnership line will receive a minimal increase to restore the line to its prior level due to a slight reduction resulting from the state using enhanced Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) funding last year.

“Throughout budget negotiations, policymakers emphasized the infusion of federal stimulus dollars to inform state spending decisions. Of the total amount of one-time state funds Pennsylvania received from the American Rescue Plan ($7.3 billion), home visiting gets less than .02% (or a paltry $1.3 million) through the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program. This funding has yet to be distributed to programs that received no aid during the COVID-19 pandemic, and is limited in its use and timeframe to spend these dollars.

“Only pennies on the dollar for evidence-based home visiting are coming in federally. It adds insult to injury that policymakers in the legislative and administrative branches did not step up and recognize constituents would benefit from the same services that have been a lifeline for so many during the last 15 months.  

“While states’ use of the ARP funds is flexible, the federal stimulus funding for evidence-based home visiting would not even reach one family in each of Pennsylvania’s 253 legislative districts.

“From birth to age five, brain growth is rapid, learning is happening, and our coalition of advocates is committed to ensuring that families can access it in high-quality, developmentally appropriate settings. In Pennsylvania, funding has not been prioritized to ensure the resources are there to offer these irreplaceable opportunities, creating deep inequity among children and their families at a very early age. We, and our tens of thousands of supporters, will continue to urge lawmakers to invest in early learning boldly – it is an urgent necessity.”

About Early Learning Pennsylvania Initiatives

Pre-K for PA launched in 2014 with the vision that every 3- and 4-year-old in Pennsylvania will have access to high-quality pre-k. Learn more on the Pre-K for PA website.

 Start Strong PA launched in 2019 to support healthy child development, working families, and the economy by increasing access to and affordability of high-quality child care programs for young children. Learn more on the Start Strong PA website

Childhood Begins At Home is a statewide campaign to help policymakers and the public understand the value of evidence-based home visiting and support public investments in the programs.  Learn more on the Childhood Begins at Home website

News

June 17, 2021

Mission: Readiness – Lessons Learned from Military Child Care

Join Mission: Readiness to discuss a new report on lessons learned from the military child care system. This event will be hosted via Zoom.

More Information

Retired military leaders and child care experts will gather virtually to release a new report discussing key investments made by the military to address problems with quality, workforce, access and affordability and how this experience serves as a roadmap for PA policymakers looking to utilize American Rescue Funds to stabilize and strengthen the commonwealth’s child care system to better support families returning to work and reopen PA. Participants will also reinforce new recommendations made by the Start Strong PA Campaign on how best to utilize these $1.2 Billion in federal child care funds.

Registration is available online.

News

February 6, 2021

Helping Children Befriend Their Emotions

Join Youth Yoga Project and the Children’s Museum in a two-hour workshop to learn how to support the emotional health of children ages three and up. This workshop will help educators build a greater understanding of the important role of emotions and imagination in the classroom.

About

By becoming more familiar with their emotions, and learning an emotional vocabulary, students are able to process and manage their emotions instead of allowing their emotions to overwhelm them. Through mindfulness, children learn accessible ways to befriend their emotions.

This workshop is open to all educators who would like to learn strategies to incorporate these concepts into their work with students. Learn how mindfulness can be used as a practical tool for pre-k-12 students to build emotional awareness in children and teens. Educators will leave with specific strategies to empower their students to develop emotional awareness and emotion processing tools through mindfulness.

Registration

To register, visit the online registration page. Registration closes on January 29, 2021. Each participant will receive electronic workshop materials from Youth Yoga Project prior to the workshop. Two hours of Act 48 credit will be available for Pennsylvania educators.

More Information

For questions, please contact Taylor Dozier at tdozier@pittsburghkids.org.

News

February 4, 2021

2021-22 Pennsylvania Budget Proposal Response

On February 3, during his 2021-22 budget proposal address, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf put an emphasis on Pennsylvania families.

As a member of Early Learning Pennsylvania (ELPA), a statewide coalition of advocates focused on supporting young Pennsylvanians from birth to age five, Trying Together commends the governor’s continued commitment to growing state funding for pre-k. However, additional effort is needed to boost the availability of quality child care and home visiting services that are essential to Pennsylvania’s working families and our economic recovery.

ELPA operates three issue-based advocacy campaigns: Pre-K for PA, Start Strong PA, and Childhood Begins at Home.

Governor Wolf’s state budget proposal included:

Pre-k

  • $25 million in additional funding for the state’s Pre-K Counts program.
  • $5 million in additional funding for the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program. Together, this $30 million expansion would serve approximately 3,270 additional young children. Currently, more than 106,000 eligible three- and four-year-old children do not have access to high-quality publicly funded pre-k programs.

In a press release, ELPA states, “During a difficult budget year, Governor Wolf deserves credit for his continued support of expanded access to publicly funded, high-quality pre-k in PA. The $30 million funding increase for these programs in the proposed 2021-22 PA budget ($25 million for Pre-K Counts; $5 million for Head Start State Supplemental Assistance Program) continues the tradition of expanding this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to thousands more three- and four-year-olds.

“A new study by the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill confirmed that the Commonwealth’s investment in pre-k is paying dividends for the children fortunate enough to access pre-k through Pennsylvania’s Pre-K Counts program. In language and math skills, the study showed that these kids outperformed their kindergarten peers who did not enjoy access – an advantage that equated to four to five months of learning gains, which is a substantial difference in development at that age and a meaningful advantage during the COVID-19 era.”

Child Care

  • $87 million in existing federal child care funds to increase child care base rates.

Base rates for CCW reimbursements will be increased to the 40th percentile of the market rate for child care in the provider’s region, up from approximately the 25th percentile where most of Pennsylvania’s child care providers currently sit. This change brings Pennsylvania closer to the federal government’s recommendation of reimbursing at the 75th percentile.

Trying Together and the ELPA campaigns commend the Wolf administration for this proposed change, however, the child care industry needs an additional boost.

“Pennsylvania’s working families struggled to find and afford high-quality child care prior to the pandemic. Today’s economic downturn has only exacerbated this problem,” the ELPA press release states. “Start Strong PA urges Governor Wolf and the Pennsylvania General Assembly to address these child care needs by quickly utilizing federal funds to serve 3,000 additional eligible infants and toddlers in high-quality slots through contracts, which provides greater financial stability to providers.”

Evidence-based Home Visiting

  • Level funding for home visiting.

The current public health crisis, isolation, stress, and unemployment have made home visiting more essential than ever. Trying Together and the ELPA campaigns hope to work collaboratively with the administration and legislature to expand evidence-based home visiting services to match that commitment with the resources to make it a reality.

We will advocate for these investments as the budget process continues. Stay up-to-date on how to advocate for these issues by signing-up to support Trying Together’s public policy agenda.

 

News

February 1, 2021

Base Rates for CCW Reimbursements to Increase March 1

On February 1, 2021, Governor Tom Wolf announced an increase to base rates paid to child care providers participating in Child Care Works (CCW), Pennsylvania’s subsidized child care program.

 

About

Effective March 1, 2021, base rates for CCW reimbursements will be increased to the 40th percentile of the market rate for child care in the provider’s region, up from approximately the 25th percentile where most of Pennsylvania’s child care providers currently sit. This change brings Pennsylvania closer to the federal government’s recommendation of reimbursing at the 75th percentile. This increase equates to an additional $28.8 million in federal funding for the 2020-21 fiscal year and $87.2 million in the 2021-22 fiscal year.

This change will also regionalize rate calculation based on Early Learning Resource Center (ELRC) regions rather than calculating rates by county for each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. Pennsylvania is currently the only state that does not regionalize rates. Regionalization of rates creates a larger pool to more accurately represent rates across provider types licensed by the Office of Child Development and Early Learning in each region rather than calculating rates by county with limited sample sizes and provider type representation.

No provider will see their rates decrease with this new structure. The average increase across all regions is $4.59. Every three years, a child care market rate survey is conducted to guide rate setting. The last Market Rate Survey was completed in 2019 and released in 2020.

Why It Matters

“Child care is essential for a functioning economy. Investments in this industry benefit us in two different ways. They support communities and the families that rely on care to join the workforce every day and nurture the growth and development of young minds as they prepare for grade school and later long-term success,” said Gov. Wolf.  “Increasing base reimbursement rates is an investment in the dedicated professionals that do this work every day and for countless parents and children. We all seek to weather the challenges created by the pandemic and the recovery ahead.”

According to the announcement, nearly two-thirds of children enrolled in CCW are in a lower-rated child care provider, and higher quality providers serve fewer CCW families. By providing increased base payments for care for children enrolled in CCW, more child care operators will increase operating margins allowing them to potentially retain more highly qualified staff and engage in enhanced quality activities.

“Child Care Works makes quality, affordable child care accessible for working families across our commonwealth,” said Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller. “By investing in base rates, we invest in quality across our child care industry – an investment that will help providers grow, develop, and retain staff and continue to improve services and care for our youngest Pennsylvanians.”

What is Child Care Works?

Child Care Works is Pennsylvania’s subsidized child care program that helps low-income families pay their child care tuition and fees. To be eligible, families must earn 200 percent or less of the federal poverty guidelines at application and meet work or job training requirements. Eligible families are able to choose to enroll at any participating child care provider, which can be impacted by convenience, transportation, cost, and working hours. Families enrolled in CCW pay a co-pay, and providers that participate in CCW are reimbursed a set base rate per child from the state with the opportunity for add-on funding.

More Information

For more information, read Governor Wolf’s full announcement.

News

January 22, 2021

Q&A: Child Care COVID-19 Pandemic Relief Award

ELRC Region 5 will host Q&A sessions to help child care providers through the Child Care COVID-19 Pandemic Relief Award application process. Sessions will be held at various times from January 13 to January 22, 2021.

About

Child care providers can now apply for a $600 Pandemic Relief Award on behalf of their eligible child care employees and child care support employees currently working directly with children as of January 1, 2021, and working a minimum of 20 paid hours a week. Early Learning Resource Center (ELRC) Region 5 will host Q&A sessions to help providers through the application process.

To learn more about the Child Care COVID-19 Pandemic Relief Award, read our news post.

Session Dates

More Information

For questions, contact ELRC Region 5 at 1.888.340.3572 or elrc5@alleghenycounty.us.

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News

January 21, 2021

Q&A: Child Care COVID-19 Pandemic Relief Award

ELRC Region 5 will host Q&A sessions to help child care providers through the Child Care COVID-19 Pandemic Relief Award application process. Sessions will be held at various times from January 13 to January 22, 2021.

About

Child care providers can now apply for a $600 Pandemic Relief Award on behalf of their eligible child care employees and child care support employees currently working directly with children as of January 1, 2021, and working a minimum of 20 paid hours a week. Early Learning Resource Center (ELRC) Region 5 will host Q&A sessions to help providers through the application process.

To learn more about the Child Care COVID-19 Pandemic Relief Award, read our news post.

Session Dates

More Information

For questions, contact ELRC Region 5 at 1.888.340.3572 or elrc5@alleghenycounty.us.

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News

Virtual Community of Practice Meetings

Are you interested in discussing topics of interest and current trends with fellow professionals in the early childhood field? Join Early Learning Resource Center (ELRC) Region 5 for their virtual Community of Practice sessions!

About

ELRC Region 5 offers Communities of Practice (COP) for early learning professionals to discuss topics of interest, current trends in the field, and offer insight and inspiration to one another. In January, the COP virtual sessions will give providers the opportunity to discuss their school-age care program successes, needs, and questions. Participants will be given the most current school-age care updates, information, resources, and professional development opportunities.

Available Sessions

    • Saturday, January 9, 2021: School Age Child Care Check-In
      10 a.m.  |  Zoom Meetings  |  Attend the Session

More Information

For questions, contact elrc5@alleghenycounty.us or 412.350.3577.

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News

Paycheck Protection Program Reopens

On January 13, 2021, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) reopened the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for First and Second Draw Loans.

 

About

The Paycheck Protection Program provides businesses with funds to pay up to eight weeks of payroll costs (including benefits). Funds may also be used to pay mortgage interest, rent, utilities, worker protection costs related to COVID-19, and other qualifying expenses. This round of PPP will authorize up to $284 billion in total to support job retention and business operations through March 31, 2021. PPP Loans are available for new borrowers and businesses that have received a PPP Loan previously.

 

First Draw PPP Loans

First Draw PPP Loans are intended for businesses that have not received a PPP Loan previously. Businesses are generally eligible for this loan if the borrower has 500 or fewer employees (including child care programs, nonprofits, veterans organizations, tribal concerns, self-employed individuals, sole proprietorships, and independent contractors). Businesses in certain industries can have more than 500 employees if they meet applicable SBA employee-based size standards for those industries.

Second Draw PPP Loans

Second Draw PPP Loans are intended for small businesses that have received a PPP Loan previously. Businesses are generally eligible for this loan if the borrower:

    • previously received a First Draw PPP Loan and will or has used the full amount only for authorized uses,
    • has no more than 300 employees, and
    • can demonstrate at least a 25 percent reduction in gross receipts between comparable quarters in 2019 and 2020.

PPP Loan Forgiveness

Eligible borrowers will qualify for full loan forgiveness if during the eight- to 24-week period following loan disbursement:

    • employee and compensation levels are maintained,
    • the loan proceeds are spent on payroll costs and other eligible expenses, and
    • at least 60 percent of the proceeds are spent on payroll costs.

Application Period

Borrowers can apply for a First or Second Draw PPP Loan until March 31, 2021, through any existing SBA 7(a) lender or federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union, eligible non-bank lender, or Farm Credit System institution that is participating in PPP. Loans will have the same terms regardless of lender or borrower. View the full terms (First Draw) (Second Draw).

Links for Borrowers

More Information

For more information, visit the U.S. Department of the Treasury website or view this document.

Information provided by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.