May 29, 2020

Guidance for Businesses in Counties Moving to Green Phase

On May 29, 2020, Gov. Tom Wolf announced that a number of Pennsylvania counties will move to the “green phase” of the state’s Reopening Plan beginning June 5. On that date, all counties in the state will be in the “yellow” or “green” phases. This means that all child care programs within the state that can comply with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may reopen.

Business Guidance

In entering the green phase, all businesses must continue following CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health guidance for social distancing and cleaning. Businesses are also encouraged to adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Continued telework strongly encouraged
  • Businesses with in-person operations must follow updated business and building safety requirements
  • All businesses operating at 50% occupancy in the yellow phase may increase to 75% occupancy
  • Child care may open complying with guidance
  • Congregate care restrictions in place
  • Prison and hospital restrictions determined by individual facilities
  • Schools subject to CDC and Commonwealth guidance

Counties in the Green Phase

As of May 29, 2020, counties that are in the green phase are Bradford, Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, McKean, Montour, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Venango, and Warren.

On June 5, 2020, counties that will transition to the green phase are Allegheny, Armstrong, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Clinton, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Indiana, Lycoming, Mercer, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland.

Governor Wolf warned that future COVID-19 outbreaks remain possible and if an outbreak occurs, counties might need to revert back to more restricted phases. Because of this, all community members and businesses should continue social distancing, practicing safe hygiene, and limiting contact with others as much as possible.

If your county remains in the yellow phase, view a news post from Trying Together about business guidance. To learn more about what the red phase, yellow phase, and green phase entail, visit the Process to Reopen Pennsylvania page.

Guidance for Child Care

In the green phase, child care providers should continue to follow CDC and DHS guidance for social distancing and cleaning.

For more information, please contact the Department of Health at 1.877.724.3258.

More Information

To learn more about Pennsylvania counties moving into the green phase, read the full press release from Governor Wolf.


May 21, 2020

CARES Act To Fund Nearly 7,000 Child Care Centers

In response to the  COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Tom Wolf announced on May 20, 2020 that an initial distribution of $51 million of funding from the CARES Act will support child care providers in Pennsylvania. Distributed in partnership with the General Assembly, this initial funding will reach nearly 7,000 early learning programs. The governor asserted that a healthy child care system was essential as Pennsylvania reopens.


The Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) determines eligibility and the amount of award based on provider type, Child Care Works (CCW) subsidy enrollment, and regional capacity. CARES Act funds will be distributed to eligible, certified child care providers through regional Early Learning Resource Centers (ELRCs) and will be available in June 2020. Additional actions are required for child care providers.

Funding Information

In total, PA received $106 million in funding that will be distributed in two waves. The first wave of $51 million will be distributed per the conditions outlined above, to help providers prepare to reopen as counties move to the yellow phase. The remaining funding will be allocated following the completion of a study assessing the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Pennsylvania’s child care providers.

Guidance for Child Care

In the Yellow Phase, child care providers are permitted to reopen without a permit so long as they follow CDC and DHS guidance for social distancing and cleaning.

For more information, please contact the Department of Health at 1.877.724.3258.

More Information

For more information about Governor Wolf’s announcement, read the full press release. The attestation form and process for the CARES Act funds for child care providers can be found online.


May 15, 2020

Guidance for Businesses in Counties Moving to Yellow Phase

On May 15, Governor Tom Wolf announced that 12 counties in Pennsylvania will be moving to the Yellow Phase of the Governor’s Plan to Reopen Pennsylvania on May 22, in addition to the 37 counties that transitioned into the Yellow Phase on May 8 or May 15. With this, the Governor provided guidance on May 4 that details procedures businesses must follow to conduct in-person operations in counties operating in or slated to move to the Yellow Phase. All businesses, including nonprofits, permitted to conduct in-person operations are subject to this guidance.

Guidance for Businesses

Under the Yellow Phase of reopening, life-sustaining businesses that could not conduct either all or part of their operations via telework will continue to conduct their operations in-person, and many non-life sustaining businesses will be permitted to restart their in-person operations through the loosening of some restrictions under the stay-at-home and business closure orders.

In counties that have been designated as in the yellow phase, all businesses, except those categories specifically listed as remaining closed in the Governor’s Plan to Reopen Pennsylvania, are permitted to conduct in-person operations, as long as they strictly adhere to the requirements of the guidance.

The guidance includes specific information on cleaning and disinfecting premises, limiting the number of employees in common areas and customers on premises, providing masks and sanitizing supplies for employees, installing shields or other barriers at registers and checkout areas to physically separate cashiers and customers, and creating a plan in case a business is exposed to a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19, among other provisions. View the full guidance.

Counties in the Yellow Phase

As of May 15 at 5 p.m., the following counties are in the Yellow Phase of reopening: Adams, Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Bedford, Blair, Bradford, Butler, Cameron, Cambria, Carbon, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Columbia, Crawford, Cumberland, Elk, Erie, Fayette, Forest, Fulton, Greene, Indiana, Jefferson, Juniata, Lawrence, Lycoming, McKean, Mercer, Mifflin, Montour, Northumberland, Perry, Potter, Snyder, Somerset, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Union, Venango, Warren, Washington, Westmoreland, Wyoming, Wayne, and York.

Governor Wolf warned that future COVID-19 outbreaks remain possible and if an outbreak occurs, counties placed in the Yellow Phase may need to revert back to the Red Phase. Because of this, all community members and businesses should continue social distancing, practicing safe hygiene, and limiting contact with others as much as possible. For counties in the Red Phase, Governor Wolf encourages individuals to “make choices that will lead to fewer cases and a faster move to lifted restrictions.”

To learn more about what the Red Phase, Yellow Phase, and Green Phase entail, visit the Process to Reopen Pennsylvania page.

Guidance for Child Care

In the Yellow Phase, child care providers are permitted to reopen without a permit so long as they follow CDC and DHS guidance for social distancing and cleaning.

For more information, please contact the Department of Health at 1.877.724.3258.

More Information

For more information, read the full press release. Businesses that have questions about whether this guidance applies to them may contact the Department of Health at 1.877.724.3258.


February 7, 2020

2020-21 Pennsylvania Budget Proposal Response

On February 5, during his 2020-2021 budget proposal address, Governor Tom Wolf dared us to imagine a Pennsylvania where no one is denied the chance to work because they can’t find child care. A Pennsylvania where high-quality child care is accessible and affordable. A Pennsylvania where child care rates are stabilized and child care providers are incentivized. Trying Together belives in that dream, but the budget proposal itself offers no new state investments to make these dreams a reality.


While the 2020-21 budget proposal offered increased state investments in early childhood programs like pre-k and home-visiting, it’s missing state investments for something that affects the lives of every parent and caregiver in Pennsylvania: child care. Early Learning PA highlights this issue in their recent press release, stating, “Given that 70 percent of Pennsylvania children under the age of five have all adults in their household in the labor force, high-quality child care is an essential workforce support.” However, due to high prices and limited child care slots, many families across the Commonwealth are not able to afford or access high-quality child care programs.

Early Learning PA continues on, stating, “Although the Governor’s budget proposal utilizes $15.3 million in federal funding toward child care subsidy base rates, this proposal will have no impact in addressing the list of children waiting to gain access to subsidized care or improve the quality of that care.” This, in turn, affects each caregiver’s ability to enter, re-enter, or remain in the workforce and the long-term academic, career, and health outcomes of young children. In Pennsylvania, 73 percent of eligible children under the age of five are not receiving high-quality child care services.

Interestingly, the lack of state investment is also a lack of response to the Governor’s own Keystone Economic Development and Workforce Command Center report, just released last week identifying barriers to employment and providing recommendations for action by the governor, Pennsylvania General Assembly, and private sector. In the report, increasing access to affordable high-quality child care was a top priority for all three.

Take Action

The lack of state investments in child care isn’t only something worth talking about, it’s also an issue that worthy of advocacy. Join us as an advocate by sending a message urging the General Assembly to demonstrate their commitment to Pennsylvania’s youngest children, their families, and our economy by increasing state funding for high-quality child care! Our senators and representatives will need to hear from us through budget negotiations, and our message starts now.

Join us if you believe that all children in Pennsylvania deserve to start strong!


December 6, 2019

$20M in PAsmart Grants Available to Advance STEM and CS Education

On November 25, 2019, Governor Tom Wolf announced that “up to $20 million in PAsmart grants are available to prepare students for the fast-growing fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and computer science (CS).”


Governor Tom Wolf has secured $40 million dollars to reinforce his PAsmart initiative, an increase of $10 million from 2018 investments. With this, “the Department of Education will award $20 million for STEM and computer science education through PAsmart Targeted pre-k–12 grants and Advancing grants. The Department of Labor and Industry will soon announce applications for $10 million for apprenticeships and industry partnerships. Funding for career and technical education also increased by $10 million.”

Discussing this initiative, Governor Wolf said that “PAsmart is strategically investing in science and technology education so students get the skills they need for emerging jobs in high demand. The grants encourage businesses and schools to develop partnerships that focus education on the knowledge students will need to succeed in growing industries. Through PAsmart, we are developing the most prepared and talented workforce in the country, which will help students excel, grow the middle class, and strengthen the economy for everyone.”

Grant Details

PAsmart Targeted Pre-k–12 Grants

The initiative will be issuing PAsmart Targeted pre-k–12 grants of up to $35,000 each with the intention to “meet the needs of local education agencies and their schools that have limited to no computer science offerings and did not receive targeted grants in 2018-19.” By receiving these grants, schools have the opportunity to “introduce and expand computer science programming and to provide educators from pre-kindergarten through grade 12 with training and professional development to teach CS.” With this, the grants will provide “greater opportunities for students of color, low-income students, and girls to learn critical skills needed to succeed in today’s workforce.”

PAsmart Advancing Grants

A larger PAsmart Advancing grant of up to $500,000 each will also be available, with the intention to “support cross-sector partnerships that provide quality STEM and CS experiences to learners of all ages – early childhood, pre-k–12, post-secondary, and adult learners – as part of high-level strategic approaches to workforce readiness.”

Application Deadlines

    • PAsmart Targeted Pre-k–12 Grant: Friday, December 20, 2019
    • PAsmart Advancing Grant: Friday, January 10, 2020

Grant applications and additional information can be found on the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) website.

More Information

For more information, read the full press release.

*Information provided by the Office of Governor Tom Wolf


November 15, 2019

Pennsylvania Expands Home Visiting Support

In October 2019, the Wolf Administration announced that, under the guidance of the Department of Human Services (DHS), it is expanding home visiting supports to first-time mothers and mothers of children with special needs covered by Medicaid. The expansion, made possible in collaboration with physical health Medicaid managed care organizations (MCOs), will guarantee at least two home visits to new parents and families with children with additional risk factors across Pennsylvania, expanding access to evidence-based models that promote and support healthy child and family development.


Since 2015, investments totaling nearly $16.5 million in state funds have helped increase the number of children and families who can receive home visiting supports in communities around Pennsylvania. Guaranteeing a minimum of two home visits to all first-time mothers and mothers of children with special needs through Medicaid continues this work.

“Being a parent can be a challenge for anyone,” said Secretary Miller. “Because children don’t come with an instruction manual, home visiting programs create support systems for families to learn to better understand children’s needs, monitor milestones, and identify other opportunities for support that can continue to facilitate healthy long-term growth.”

The home visiting expansion is effective January 1, 2020 through the MCOs’ 2020 agreement. Under the new agreements, MCOs will be required to establish an evidence-based, standardized maternal, infant, and early childhood home visitation program for all first-time parents and parents of infants with additional risk factors. All parents and children identified through this effort will receive at least two home visits at no cost, and depending on need, may be referred to other established home visiting programs to continue these services. DHS expects that these programs will be in place with eligible new parents receiving home visiting services by July 1, 2020.

“There is no more important focus of my administration than giving all children and families a strong start,” Gov. Wolf said. “By expanding access to evidence-based home visiting programs, we will put more kids, parents, and families on a path to a healthy, happy future.”

What is Home Visiting?

Evidence-based home visiting family support programs have a family-centered focus and strength-based approach that works with both the child and parent. A home visitor can help parents gain the skills and connect to resources necessary to improve their family’s health, safety, economic security, and success in early childhood education.

Studies of various nurse-family partnership programs have shown positive impacts for the mother and baby during pregnancy and after birth, such as a decrease in domestic violence and smoking during pregnancy, a significant decrease in pre-term births, and a majority of babies being born at a healthy weight. Home visiting can also improve parents’ child development knowledge and skills, help develop social support systems, and improve access to education, health, and community services.

Examples of services include:

    • monthly parent meetings;
    • regularly scheduled home visits with trained family development specialists; and
    • routine screenings to identify post-partum depression and detect potential problems with vision, hearing, growth, and learning age-based milestones.

What You Can Do

While there have been increased investments in home visiting, only 15,900 children are estimated to be served in the current state fiscal year. That’s only five percent of the children who would benefit from these services the most. Join the statewide campaign Childhood Begins at Home in advocating to maintain and build on state investments in evidence-based home visiting.

More Information

For more information, read the full release.

*Information provided by the Governor Tom Wolf Administration


November 13, 2019

Investments in Early Childhood Support Workforce Readiness

On November 12, 2019, Governor Tom Wolf joined Pennsylvania’s Adjutant General Major General Anthony Carrelli and retired generals and admirals from Mission: Readiness to release the nonprofit organization’s workforce readiness report. The report outlines how competition for qualified individuals among all employment sectors affects military recruiting efforts and warrants greater investment in our next generation.


In their report, Mission: Readiness identifies research-based solutions to improve the health and education of young adults with the goal of making them more likely to successfully contribute to America’s workforce, including military service if they so choose. With this, they document wins for Pennsylvanians that Mission: Readiness supported in the areas of early childhood education; equitable and adequate K-12 education funding; and youth fitness and nutrition.

Retired Air Force Lieutenant General Ralph Jodice spoke out on the importance of early childhood, stating, “Research is clear that brain development from birth to age five sets the foundation for children’s future success. High-quality child care and early education programs like pre-k set the stage for readiness by improving children’s cognitive ability, health, and behavior throughout life.

Governor Wolf spoke on his support of early childhood investments, stating that he is “committed to making investments in education at all ages to help ensure we provide Pennsylvanians with the skills needed for every open job,” including open positions with Pennsylvania National Guard and all branches of the military. Building on this statement, Governor Wolf said that “we owe it to the men and women currently serving in the Pennsylvania National Guard and all branches of the military to give them the best possible future troops. That means ensuring we’re providing the best education possible to potential enlistees, starting at the earliest ages, when children learn quickly and eagerly.”

What You Can Do

Every child deserves an equal opportunity to a quality educational foundation that will prepare them to grow, learn, and succeed. That’s why Trying Together participates in multiple advocacy campaigns, including Pre-K for PA and Start Strong PA. Will you join us?

    • Join Pre-K for PA and advocate for high-quality pre-k access for every 3- and 4-year old in Pennsylvania.
    • Join Start Strong PA and advocate for all young children in Pennsylvania to have access to high-quality child care programs that their families can afford.

Visit our Take Action page to learn more!

More Information

For access to the video and full press release, visit the PAcast website.


October 2, 2019

Governor Wolf Releases Report on Infant Toddler Support

Governor Tom Wolf released a report detailing seven Ready to Start Task Force priorities that were developed to better support the long-term success of infants, toddlers, and families in Pennsylvania.

Ready to Start Task Force

The Governor’s Ready to Start Task Force was created in September 2018 to “develop a framework of strategies to address health, human services, and education policy for infants and toddlers ages birth to three in Pennsylvania.” Led by six Governor-appointed co-chairs, the Task Force facilitated “six regional roundtable listening sessions with members of the Administration and approximately 150 stakeholders who represent early care and education providers, health care practitioners, research organizations, workforce development, state and local government, foundations, employers, postsecondary educators, and community-based organizations.”

At these sessions, stakeholders responded to three key questions on family and child health, home environments, and future school success. The Governor also provided an online feedback form to receive ideas and thoughts from the community. Through these methods, the Task Force identified a list of key themes and findings, from which the four-year framework report was created.


Governor’s Ready to Start Task Force: A Four-Year Framework to Support Pennsylvania’s Infants and Toddlers” lists seven key priorities, all of which include specific goals that guide Pennsylvania “to a stronger future for the Commonwealth’s infants, toddlers, and their families.”

    • Increase the Availability of High-Quality Child Care and Home Visiting Service Slots
    • Improve Early Intervention Quality and Streamlining to Enhance Availablity, Alignment, Integration, and Coordination of Services
    • Increase Recruitment, Retention, Development, Support, and Training of Early Childhood Education Professionals
    • Better Utilize Medicaid, CHIP, and State Regulatory Powers to Address the Risks to Infants and Toddlers Posed by Harmful Environmental Contaminants
    • Promote Education, Engagement, and Support of Parents and Families as Children’s First Teachers
    • Improve Information, Outreach, and Access to Services
    • Promote Sustainable Systems of Care to Support the Health and Wellbeing of All Children and Women of Child-Bearing Age

Next Steps

Moving forward, Governor Wolf will “establish a cross-sector ‘Ready to Start’ Workgroup comprised of agency and external stakeholders that will be responsible for establishing measurable goals and ensuring progress on the framework priorities and recommendations.” Meeting monthly, the Workgroup will engage with other state groups in fields that intersect with the priorities.

Learn More

To learn more, read the full report.

*Information provided by the Office of Governor Tom Wolf


August 7, 2019

Education Dept. Launches Online Book Nook Initiative

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) recently launched an initiative aimed at promoting literacy even when school isn’t in session. Each week, PDE unveils a new video featuring a prominent Pennsylvanian reading a children’s book to an at-home audience.

Upcoming Readings

The initiative kicked off with Secretary Pedro Rivera reading the book, Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes, one of his personal favorite books to read to young audiences. In upcoming weeks, the initiative will feature several officials from the Wolf Administration reading books related to the work they lead, including:

Where to Watch

The videos are accessible on PDE’s TwitterFacebook, and YouTube pages.

Learn More

To learn more, read the full press release or visit the PDE website.

*Information provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Education


July 28, 2019

Response: Pennsylvania Fiscal Year 2019-20 Budget

Recently, the state finalized the budget for fiscal year 2019-20, running now through June 30, 2020.


Alongside monumental increased investments for pre-k and home visiting, child care line items expanded, but only due to increases in funds from the federal government that are appropriated (or allowed to be spent) in the new state budget. Meanwhile, state child care dollars were cut by $36 million and replaced with federal funds.

While Trying Together is excited by the growth of pre-k and home visiting, this budget was a missed opportunity to support greater access to and affordability of high-quality child care. It is critical that our state policymakers know that the early childhood community is paying attention to their actions.

Detailed Budget Overview

Governor Wolf’s enacted budget includes the following:

Child Care
    • $6 million cut from the Child Care Services line item (replaced by federal funds).
    • $30 million cut from the Child Care Assistance line item (replaced by federal funds).
    • $27 million of federal dollars allocated to serve 970 additional infants and toddlers eligible for Child Care Works in high-quality programs; raise tiered reimbursement rates for STAR 2, 3, and 4 providers caring for infants and toddlers; and support apprenticeships for infant and toddler teachers.
    • $25 million increase for Pre-K Counts. This funding will also provide a rate increase of 2.95%, meaning approximately $250 more per child served over the prior rate.
    • $5 million increase for the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program to serve more children.
Evidence-Based Home Visiting
    • $5 million increase for evidence-based home visiting programs to serve an additional 800 eligible families.

Why It’s Important

Today, only one-third of children on child care subsidy are accessing high-quality STAR 3 or 4 care. On average, families wait 88 days to access subsidies they need to join or remain in the workforce, with 4,300 children on the subsidy waiting list. However, child care subsidy reimbursements do not cover the cost of quality care. With this, child care staff are often paid low wages, with 50 percent of child care staff receiving public assistance.

We are pleased to see a waiting list initiative to serve more infants and toddlers in high-quality care and an increase in tiered reimbursement that will provide further program stability and consistency in teacher:child relationships. These are initiatives we and partners advocated for and strongly align with our Start Strong PA campaign goals.

Trying Together appreciates Governor Wolf’s continued commitment to early care and education programs in the commonwealth. With this, we recognize that countless families still lack access to high-quality early learning programs that they can afford. Trying Together will be doubling down on our advocacy for greater state and federal funding for child care.

Take Action

To support the work of early childhood and caregivers of young children, we participate in multiple campaigns, including Pre-K for PAStart Strong PA, and Childhood Begins at Home. However, the success of these advocacy efforts is only possible when the early childhood community is visible and heard by our elected officials.

Visit our Take Action page and take action on the campaigns that matter to you. By doing so, you can thank lawmakers for greater investments in pre-k and home visiting and let them know that you expect to see them restore and grow investments in high-quality child care.

To stay up-to-date on how to advocate for these issues, sign-up to receive public policy updates.

See the full budget history here.