States are suspending rules to ensure access to childcare
Numerous states have taken steps to loosen regulation for childcare providers. Here I include some of the states that have taken those steps to make it easier for childcare providers to respond to the pandemic.
In Connecticut, the Commissioner of the Office of Early childhood education has granted specific waivers of licensing requirements. The waivers will cease when the state of declared emergency ends.The state of Florida is permitting waivers for specific standards in order to make sure providers stay open and also asking providers considering closure to contact their licensing specialists to discuss a plan to stay open.
The state of Missouri has made numerous amendments to regulations. Missouri has (1) Extended Child Care Subsidy Benefits (2) waived capacity limits for providers (3) made short term licenses available (4) loosened record keeping regulation and allowed providers to extend hours.
In South Carolina, the Governor has instituted emergency plans for child care licensing. Providers can expand capacity and organizations can and set up temporary childcare sites and be able to operate without a license for a maximum of 30 days. The state of Vermont has provisions to waive relevant licensing rules and regulation on condition in order to allow providers to serve children of essential workers during period of closure.
Laws that mandate that the only cleaning products that schools and the state can purchase are those that “minimize adverse impacts on children’s health and the environment” are suspended to make it easier to sanitize schools. Similarly, the procurement guidelines on buying these products have been relaxed.
A law mandating that child care providers undergo criminal background checks has been suspended.
Day care facilities that operate out of elementary or secondary schools are no longer exempt from oversight by the Office of Children and Family Services.
Twenty-one other sections of Social Services regulations and a couple of sections of Social Services law dealing with day care have been put on ice. These suspensions will end capacity limits for day care facilities, let children of any age attend them and eliminate mandatory staffing minimums.
On March 26, 2020, Governor Inslee issued an order temporarily suspending a variety of child care licensing requirements until April 25, 2020, having made the determination that enforcement of these requirements “will risk destabilizing the state’s subsidized child care programs and prevent, hinder, or delay the response by the Department of Children, Youth, and Families to the COVID-19 pandemic State of Emergency.” Suspended requirements include requiring federal fingerprint background checks before completing the licensing process, allowing workers to be more easily licensed to provide care to those who need it.
This is definitely a unique time and calls for suspension of burdensome rules for markets to respond which is good. But as the virus wears down and people return to work, states will continue to face the same issues they have been facing for years; shortage and high costs of childcare services. If states are suspending rules now to ensure access, there is little need to reinstate those rules once the pandemic is over. It is these same rules that prevent new providers from entering the market and lead to other providers from exiting. This is the time some rules are assessed as to whether they are at all necessary to ensure safety in childcare.