Help is on the way for low-income Georgia families whose young children attend public schools that are holding classes virtually amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the state Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) announced Monday.
Around $17 million from state-administered federal aid is being set aside for child-care scholarships to help eligible low-income parents either working or in school pay for child-care services during the school day.
“If families are eligible, they will receive a scholarship to help pay for on-site support and supervision of their children engaged in virtual instruction during the school day while parents work,” said DECAL Commissioner Amy Jacobs. “This is a win-win for school-age children as well as Georgia’s licensed child-care providers who have been largely devastated by this pandemic but have continued to step up for families in their time of need.”
To be eligible, a family’s income must not exceed 85% of the state median annual income, roughly $44,000 for a single parent with one child or just under $65,000 for a family of four.
A child must also be enrolled in a Georgia school district that is only offering virtual learning. Only children ages 5-12 will qualify. Parents must also be working, attending school or both.
Scholarship funds can be used to pay for child care, supervision and other support during the school day while parents are away at work or in school and their children are taking online classes.
Funds can be used at licensed child-care learning centers, family child-care learning homes and providers with an approved day-camp exemption. The state keeps a searchable list of licensed child-care facilities at www.qualityrated.org.
The scholarship application period starts Sept. 1. Families who qualify will be covered under the scholarship for three months and can seek an extension if virtual classes last longer than three months.
Parents can apply at www.gateway.ga.gov/access.
As of last Friday, 42 school districts in Georgia have chosen to hold virtual-only classes to start the 2020-21 school year amid the ongoing pandemic, including several districts in metro Atlanta and some rural counties, according to a list provided by the state.
With many students returning to class in August, state officials have left it to local school districts whether to hold classes in person or start off with virtual learning.
The state Department of Education released guidelines over the summer to help local districts decide how to hold classes in the fall via a mix of in-person classes and online instruction options.
In a statement Monday, Gov. Brian Kemp hailed the child-care scholarship as a way to help many families struggling from the economic fallout of coronavirus as they try to hold down jobs and maintain steady schooling options for their children.
“These are challenging times for our state, but we will continue to work around the clock to support our students and teachers, improve outcomes and get people back to work,” Kemp said.