(Jackson, Miss.) – The Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS) has dedicated more than $50 million to assist child care providers and families in need of child care in a safe, healthy environment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

MDHS’ Division of Early Childhood Care and Development (DECCD) made child care providers a priority when the pandemic caused many child care centers to close. Through training and financial assistance, roughly half have reopened and others are being trained on how to operate safely during a pandemic.  MDHS worked quickly to file emergency policies that allowed for additional financial assistance to become available to child care providers and families.

“Child care has always been a necessity for working families,” said Dr. Chad Allgood, Deputy Director of DECCD.  “Child care is the backbone of Mississippi’s workforce. We will never restart Mississippi without sustaining child care programs.

“Providers have been working tirelessly, often putting themselves at risk, to offer the safest possible care for children and families.  DECCD is using all its available resources to support these child care centers in this fight and help working Mississippians by providing a safe place for their children.”

MDHS increased payment rates to child care providers, offering the highest reimbursement rates available to offset lost revenue and increased child care operational costs in response to COVID-19.  For example, where the standard market rate for infant child care had been $480 per month per infant, it has now increased to $600.

Additionally, MDHS is temporarily paying co-payments for parents.  Traditionally, parents who participate in the DECCD program are required to pay a pro-rated portion of the cost of childcare.  This measure has the dual impact of alleviating a financial burden on low-income working families, while simultaneously providing increased stabilization for the childcare centers that participate in the program.

To further support families, MDHS has made child care subsidy available to first responders and other essential personnel through Emergency Certificates.  The list of eligible families was recently expanded to include greater numbers of essential personnel including teachers and child care providers, cashiers, custodial staff, and social workers.

MDHS is also working diligently to assist child care providers in accessing supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE). In May, the agency distributed PPE and other supplies through Mississippi Community College Board’s Early Childhood Academies to the 12 hardest hit counties in Mississippi. Another $4 million has been designated to provide additional supplies, to include PPE, in the coming weeks.

“As parents return to the workplace during these unprecedented times, they don’t need the added concern of whether or not they can find adequate child care,” MDHS Executive Director Robert G. “Bob” Anderson said. “We’re committed to doing all we can to assist child care providers take the steps necessary to instill confidence that their children will be safe.”

To learn more about the Division of Early Childhood Care and Development and to apply for Emergency Certificates, visit https://www.mdhs.ms.gov/early-childhood-care-development/.