MA Travel Order Q & A

All center-based child care and family child care programs were required to close by 11:59pm on Sunday, March 22, 2020. Licensed programs that continue to operate without an emergency authorization will be deemed illegal.

Exempt Emergency Child Care Programs will be the only child care programs that are allowed to operate during the COVID-19 State of Emergency. These programs—authorized through a unique request and approval process—will support essential workers and vulnerable families that have no other option for non-group child care.

EEC will continue paying subsidies and parent fees for our subsidized cases for the duration of the closure.

Residential schools, community group homes, temporary shelters, transition-to-independent living facilities, teen parent programs, and DYS secure facilities are not required to close at this time.

Child Care Closure

During the time of mandated emergency COVID-19 closure, providers will continue to receive childcare subsidy payments from the state. The value of parent fees for March and April will be paid in May 2020 with provider’s billing for April Services. These measures attempt to ensure that programs will be able to re-open once the crisis is over.

We encourage all our programs to be flexible with charging enrollment fees during this time. The state is providing financial assistance programs for small businesses, including child care providers, that may help programs offer that flexibility.

Emergency Child Care Programs

Please know, this is not business as usual.

Emergency Child Care Programs will be the only child care programs allowed to operate during the COVID-19 State of Emergency. These programs—authorized through a unique request and approval process—will support essential workers and vulnerable families that have no other option for non-group child care through Phase 1 of reopening.

Priority access to emergency child care must be given to vulnerable children and the children of families designated as "COVID-19 Essential Workforces," with emphasis on those in the fields of health care, public health, human services, law enforcement, public safety, and first responders.

Funding for emergency child care programs is not designed to cover the entire cost of operating but rather to ease the fiscal burden on programs that have stepped forward and partnered with EEC to provide assistance to families in this unprecedented global health care crisis. This will be the operating standard in most cases.

Click here to view the fiscal policy for emergency child care programs

If your program is working with a municipality or collaborating directly with a company/organization (ex: a hospital), please work with your regional office for site-specific information and approval.

Interested providers or employers looking to identify unique child care solutions for a specific workplace can complete the online application here and will be contacted by EEC staff as demand require.

Approved emergency child care programs that were previously enrolled in the Department of Early and Secondary Education (DESE) Child and Adult Care Food Program must notify their DESE consultant of their emergency approval in order to continue serving meals.


Frequently Asked Questions

Are face masks now required for early child care providers, educators, and children over the age of two?

Please review our temporary policy on the use of face masks here.

What if my CPR and/or first aid certifications expire during the state of emergency?

This is a critical time for all child care staff to be trained in the life saving techniques of Pediatric CPR and First Aid. As a result, the requirement for staff to complete this training and to remain certified continues to apply. However, in recognition of the current limitations presented during the COVID-19 state of emergency, EEC has set forth a temporary CPR and First Aid extension. Please view that policy here.

Who is eligible to become an emergency provider?

A provider whose license was in good standing as of Friday March 20, 2020 is eligible to apply. A center-based provider not previously licensed that has specific relationship with an organization or municipality should contact EEC directly if they intend to serve essential workers.

Now that the closure has extended, do currently-authorized emergency child care providers need to reapply?

No. If you have been authorized to provide emergency child care, you may continue to do so throughout the duration of the public health closure provided you are following the requirements laid out by EEC.

How will the payments work?

Emergency child care program funding is not designed to cover the entire cost of operating an emergency child care program. The intent is to help ease the fiscal burden on programs that have stepped forward and partnered with EEC to provide assistance to families in this unprecedented global health care crisis. The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) will provide a flat rate based on the approved capacity of the program. The rate will not be adjusted for actual number of children served. Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (CCR&R) will distribute funds to programs on behalf of EEC. Instructions for requesting funds from the CCR&R will be included in your notification of Emergency Child Care Program Approval. EEC anticipates providing additional funding, subject to appropriations, to support operational costs of emergency child care programs. Check with your Regional EEC Office to determine if you are eligible for funding.

When will parents fees be paid by the EEC?

The value of parent fees for both March and April will be paid in May 2020 with provider’s billing for April Services.

Are EEC’s subsidy payment policies going to continue?

Yes. EEC will continue paying subsidies, vouchers, contract and parent fees for our subsidized cases for the duration of the closure.

Who qualifies for emergency child care?

Providers should use the list of “COVID-19 Essential Workforces” to determine the eligibility of a family. Emergency drop-in child care programs are opening to provide emergency, back-up child care for vulnerable families and members of essential workforces who have no other option. Parents and guardians working from home are not a priority for emergency child care. In light of Governor Baker's March 23 emergency order, priority access to emergency child care will be given to vulnerable children and the children of families designated as “COVID-19 Essential Workforces” with emphasis on those in the health care, public health, and human services and law enforcement, public safety, and first responder fields. To slow the spread of the coronavirus, all families should keep children out of group care settings to the greatest extent possible.

How many children should we plan to accept into our emergency program?

Out-of-home emergency child care settings can serve up to 20 children per classroom with minimum of 2 adults in every classroom. Home-based emergency child care settings can serve up to 8 children with a minimum of 1 adult in the home. Programs are not required to meet the maximum number of children. Specific ratios and groups sizes should meet the needs of the individual program and provider, based on health and safety needs including facility configuration. Please work with your regional office to determine your program size and setup.

My own children will be home with me during the program day. Do I need to count them in my capacity?

A provider’s own children who are ages 10 and under and who are present on the premises during any part of the program day must be counted in the capacity and towards the maintenance of child-staff ratios. For example, if you have a total capacity of 8 children and two of your own children (ages 3 and 7) will be present on the premises during the child care day, you may accept no more than 6 children for emergency child care.

How should we group children by age?

Programs should work directly with their regional office to establish age groupings that meet the needs of the facility and program. Emergency Child Care Programs are exempt from EEC’s age grouping regulations for the duration of the state of emergency.

How far in advance can parents reserve emergency child care slots?

Please work directly with individual programs to understand how far in advance you may reserve child care. We encourage programs to support essential workers by helping parents plan for the availability of care. If you have existing families that are paying to receive child care through your non-emergency program, they may not receive emergency child care unless you waive their existing fees or unless you have specific approval of EEC.

Can I continue charging private-pay tuition and fees while closed?

EEC does not set policies for private pay contracts and encourages programs to be flexible with families. Please reference the Attorney General’s guidance.

What about children involved with the Department of Children and Families (DCF), who were enrolled in child care? What happens to them now that child care is temporarily closed?

In advance of the suspension of licensed child care on Sunday, March 22, 2020, EEC worked closely with DCF to identify those cases where DCF children are in need of child care including cases at highest risk or in emergency situations where there is no other options for non-group care settings. EEC and DCF worked hand-in-hand to place these critical cases into approved emergency programs. DCF caseworkers have been working with families to identify alternative arrangements where possible during the public health crisis. Families involved with DCF or providers who are currently serving children involved with DCF should reach out to the caseworker directly to support planning for those children during this critical time.

Do we receive payment if we don’t have any children in attendance?

We anticipate numbers growing every day. We will pay you in two-week increments, and programs with continued lack of utilization will be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

Can I charge for enrollment at my emergency program?

No. All licensed child care programs are currently suspended and not permitted to operate unless specifically authorized by EEC. Any provider who is continuing to serve currently enrolled children under a suspended license will be terminated from the emergency program and will no longer be eligible for emergency funding.

What do I tell parents about their emergency child care options?

Emergency care programs are intended for emergency care only. They are back-up care for vulnerable families and essential workers who have no other option. Parents who have alternate child care, such as friends or family, should not utilize emergency child care. Parents and guardians working from home are not a priority for emergency child care. In light of Governor Baker's March 23 order designating certain “Essential Workforces,” priority access to emergency child care must be given to vulnerable children, and the children of families designated as essential workers with emphasis on those in the health care, public health, and human services and law enforcement, public safety, and first responder fields. For a list of essential workforces, please visit https://www.mass.gov/info-details/covid-19-essential-services.

Are there any state reimbursements for financial losses during this period?

  • For Subsidized Care

    Providers who have subsidized families enrolled will continue to receive child care subsidy payments from the state. EEC will also cover the cost of parent fees for subsidized families enrolled in care until June 29, 2020 or the duration of the state of emergency.

  • For Private Pay

    We recognize that child care providers are businesses losing critical revenue in this uncertain time. We encourage all our programs to be flexible with charging enrollment fees. The state is providing financial assistance programs for small businesses, including child care providers, that may help programs offer that flexibility. We are assessing all funding options and will provide additional guidance as soon as possible.

What is the plan for children who depend on child care programs for meals?

Approved emergency child care programs that were previously enrolled in the Department of Early and Secondary Education (DESE) Child and Adult Care Food Program must notify their DESE consultant of their emergency approval in order to continue serving meals. Many community partners are also working to make meals available to children. Project Bread and the Department of Early and Secondary Education have partnered to map and share information on meal options:meals4kids.org/summer

What hours are the emergency child care programs open?

Each program has discretion to determine its own hours as long as programs can be adequately staffed.

Will transportation be provided to the emergency child care programs?

No. At this time we are putting all of EEC’s resources toward launching emergency care to support vulnerable children and the children of families who are required to work to maintain the health, safety, and welfare of all Commonwealth citizens.

Will emergency child care workers get priority testing for COVID-19?

Yes. The Department of Public Health (DPH) Staff will prioritize emergency child care workers that are exposed or symptomatic for testing of COVID-19. Please call your Regional Office if you need testing for emergency child care staff.

What about people who aren’t “essential workers” but still need child care?

This is not intended to be a replacement for traditional childcare. It is an emergency program. Families will check in with approved programs in their region to see if there is a slot available they could fill. The program will make decisions, in consultation with the EEC regional office, about who qualifies for care.

Who decides who receives the emergency care? And how quickly?

Emergency childcare providers, with guidance from the EEC regional office, will make decisions about care based on the needs of the families that apply. Parents will get quick answers directly from the approved emergency child care programs after reviewing their particular circumstances with the childcare provider. COVID-19 essential workforces shall be prioritized.

What if my local board of health’s guidance is to shut down everything completely?

All local boards of health have been alerted about emergency child care programs, which are legally exempt from any local prohibitions of child care programs proceeding with normal operations. If you experience any issues, please contact your Regional EEC Office for support.

Can staff bring their young children to an emergency program?

If your staff in group care programs have young children, encourage them NOT to bring their children into a group setting. These are last-resort options for emergency need only. If at all possible, staff with small children should stay home. EEC is actively working to help recruit educators to fill to help staff centers as needed. Staff in family child care settings should work with their program on an individual basis.

Is there any support for how to navigate financial resources for small child care businesses?

We are working to develop a support system to help providers navigate the financial assistance available to you at this time. The new Congressional Relief package does provide relief for small businesses. More information is forthcoming.

What happens if a family need to be reauthorized for subsidy during the state of emergency?

EEC is working to provide an automated process for those who require reauthorization during the state of emergency. More information is coming soon.