Colorado governor announces emergency child care for frontline coronavirus workers

Colorado workers on the front lines of fighting the new coronavirus — including doctors, nurses, police, and firefighters — will have access to emergency child care so they can continue to work while most schools and child care centers are closed, Gov. Jared Polis announced Wednesday.

Polis said he wants to make sure “people aren’t forced to stay home simply because their kid doesn’t have a place to go during the day.”

Most school districts in Colorado have closed schools until the end of March or early April. Some child care centers followed suit, though the state has implored them to stay open. Polis said on Wednesday that it’s “increasingly unlikely” that Colorado schools will reopen this year.

Approximately 80,000 of the state’s emergency workers have children under age 8, Polis said. A new website asks workers to fill out a survey detailing their child care needs, including the age of their children, their location, and what time of day they’d need care.

Early childhood and school-aged care providers are asking if their staff would be willing to provide care, the website says. Those who agree to work at their center or at another location would be “paid an enhanced rate that recognizes their extra effort and commitment to serving our community in a time of need,” the website says.

“Depending on region or need, possibilities might include licensed in-home care, a center-based program, services in a school-based program, and on-demand child care,” the website says. “We will do our best to match those families with an identified care provider that meets their needs and reach out to them to arrange enrollment.”

Clayton Early Learning, which runs a nationally recognized preschool and child care program in northeast Denver, said it is part of a coalition of early childhood organizations working to figure this out. Clayton has a staff of 80 people who serve 200 children in center-based programming and 300 more in community programs, President and CEO Rebecca Crowe said.

Clayton’s center-based programming is currently closed through April 3 to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

Crowe said she isn’t sure yet what emergency child care would look like at Clayton, or when it would start. She and others are working with state and federal regulatory bodies on how to provide care safely. But she said she’s impressed by how quickly Colorado providers have come together to put this idea into action.

“It’s a juggling act, but I feel so confident in the quality of the team and the power of this coalition,” Crowe said. “We’re excited to be part of the solution.”

Participating child care locations would undergo “deep cleaning” before they open, and then daily after that, the website says. The number of children cared for in a single group would also be reduced “to smaller than typical to allow increased social distancing,” it says.

The child care centers would follow state guidance for positive cases of COVID-19, the website says. Guidance issued last week called for centers with a single case to close for at least 72 hours, and centers with three or more cases to close for at least 14 days. It’s unclear if that guidance would still apply.

Here’s a list of workers eligible for emergency child care, according to the website: Doctors; nurses; hospital support personnel, including maintenance and janitorial staff; police; firefighters; EMTs; state Department of Corrections workers; and staff at long-term care facilities, mental health facilities, and residential facilities, subject to available capacity.