Covid-19 Updates

The Department of Education, Office of Early Learning, and Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas are committed to providing up-to-date information and guidance to our early learning community to address concerns. The health and safety of our School Readiness (SR) and Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) students, families, providers and staff is of utmost importance. This information will be updated as necessary while our communities mitigate the effects of COVID-19.

The below precautions and changes will be taken throughout the next 30 days or until further notice,
as recommended by the above entities.

Contact staff with questions or concerns at 727-548-1439 or info@elcpinellas.org.
For Families
We continue to serve families and providers via email, telephone, and online.

The Department of Education, Office of Early Learning, and Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas are committed to providing up-to-date information and guidance to our early learning community to address concerns. The health and safety of our School Readiness (SR) and Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) students, families, providers and staff is of utmost importance. This information will be updated as necessary while our communities mitigate the effects of COVID-19.

Contact staff with questions or concerns at 727-400-4411 or info@elcpinellas.org.

Policy Waivers Include:

  • Suspending ALL terminations of School Readiness eligibility, effective March 15 through July 15, 2020.
  • Granting 60-day extensions for ALL re-determinations and waitlist renewals for School Readiness eligibility, from the clients’ re-determination date, effective March 15 through July 15, 2020.
  • Waiving parent co-pays for School Readiness families, regardless of income. Providers may still charge applicable differentials. This will go into effect April 1 until further notice.
    • Redeterminations will be processed with correct parent fees. Fees will not be applied during waiver period.
  • Waiving required documentation for School Readiness child absences, effective March 1 until further notice. This will be reevaluated every two weeks.
  • Expanding purpose for care to establish School Readiness eligibility and for families applying to the waitlist. Effective May 13 through August 1, 2020.*
    • “Job search” can be used as a purpose for care.
    • The 20 hour per week of work/education requirements for initial eligibility are suspended. Effective May 13 through August 1, 2020.
  • Emergency Care Scholarship information:
    • First responder and essential health care worker families will receive services with a valid referral issued in three-month increments as long as the provisions of the executive order remain in effect.
    • Upon conclusion of each referral, a new referral must be issued for continued services. If the referral is not renewed and the family’s income is less than 85% State Median Income (SMI), the family will be given 3 months to establish a different purpose of care. If the family’s income exceeds 85% SMI, Services will be terminated.

FAMILY -FAQ

Yes. We recognize parents may need alternative care arrangements. Keep in mind, if you choose to transfer, you may lose your spot at your original provider. Please fax in your transfer form to 727-400-4486. Within 2 business days, you must log into your family portal account (https://familyservices.floridaearlylearning.com/Account/Login). It is your responsibility to sign the payment certificate in order to complete the process and ensure proper payments to the new provider.

Please contact our Child Care Resource and Referral (CCRR) department at (727) 400 - 4411. Please option 3, then select option 3 again to speak to our staff.

All SR parent fees will be waived, effective April 1-July 31. You may be responsible for a payment differential if you normally pay this.

Yes. Attendance rules for School Readiness and Voluntary Prekindergarten programs have been temporarily waived to give more flexibility for families. Providers will be paid for all active enrollments regardless of attendance.

Yes. Our offices and lobbies are closed, but we continue to serve families virtually. Parents and Guardians can call 727-400-4411 to schedule a phone/online interview. Please confirm your selected childcare site is open and accepting children before scheduling an appointment. 

Due to current funding limitations, we are not currently enrolling children from the School Readiness waitlist. However, if you are a first responder or healthcare worker, you may qualify for an Emergency Care Scholarships.

Qualifying employers are outlined in Governor DeSantis’ Executive Order 20-91 Essential Services List. Only the first two categories are eligible: Public Health/ Healthcare and Law Enforcement, Public Safety and other First Responders.

  • Child(ren) are a US citizen(s) or legal resident(s)
  • One or both parents are a first responder or healthcare worker
  • Child Care Application & Authorization form completed by employer
  • Attendance at a contracted School Readiness provider
  • Florida residents, services are provided by the local Early Learning Coalition where the family resides.

Eligible employers should contact Ken Buchanan, Family Services Manager at kbuchanan@elcpinellas.org for detailed instructions and forms.

Eligible families should obtain a Child Care Application & Authorization form from their HR department. They will also need to select an open School Readiness provider.

Examples of documentation for job search include submitted application for reemployment assistance, receipt of reemployment assistance or a completed job search form used for reemployment assistance services from the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO).

Examples of documentation for a reduction in hours include employer verification or paystubs showing a reduction in hours due to the COVID 19 pandemic. Documentation the parent is furloughed or on temporary layoff as defined by DOE is also sufficient to establish purpose for care with less than 20 hours of employment and/or education activity.

Families that initially qualify for School Readiness with “job search” as a purpose for care will be given 3 months initially to establish a different purpose for care.

  1. Families that initially qualify for School Readiness with less than 20 hours of work and/or education activities will have until August 1, 2020 to reach the 20hr minimum. If the family has not reached 20 hours by August 1, 2020, they will be given 3 months to establish a purpose for care meeting the minimum hour requirements.

We will update this page once we receive guidance from the Office of Early Learning.

More Resources

Meals at schools [Pinellas County Schools] 

The Food and Nutrition Team will be distributing some free meals, breakfast, and lunch,  at nine schools this week for Pinellas County Schools students ages 18 and younger. A list of food distribution locations is here.  

Food Pantry Locator [Food Finder] 

Via mobile app or website, foodfinder.us quickly and easily locates a number of different food pantries in an area. Simply input a zip-code to generate a list of pantries with address, phone and more.  

Getting Groceries During Quarantine [EatRight.org] 

To help limit potential exposure time, have a grocery list ready before heading to the store, and focus on foods with longer shelf-lives such as flour, grains, canned goods to help reduce the number of trips needed and maintain social distancing.  

More Tips & Resources [EatRight.org] 

To help keep meals nutritional throughout the pandemic, eatright.org offers several articles on such topics as minimizing food waste, making family cooking fun, properly cleaning ingredients and more. 

Summer Meals [Summer BreakSpot]
Summer BreakSpot provides nutritious meals at no cost to children 18 and under while school is out for the summer. Meal sites are located at parks, libraries and churches and offer breakfasts, lunches, snacks or supper. Text FLKIDSMEALS to 211-211 to find the closest Summer BreakSpot. Or call 2-1-1 and ask the operator.

Employment opportunities around Tampa Bay [WFLA] 

From Dollar General to PepsiCo, many local companies are hiring hundreds of new staff.  

Reemployment Assistance [Florida Department of Economic Opportunity]  

Individuals laid off or sent home without pay for an extended period and those who are caring for an immediate family member who is diagnosed with the Coronavirus may qualify for temporary wage replacement.  

Employer Paid Leave Requirements [Families First Response Act] 

Details on Paid Sick Leave or Expanded Family and Medical leave for employees impacted by the Coronavirus.

Florida Blue extends access to members 

Many members who have coverage through their employer are able to have a teladoc appointment for $0 cost-share. Further, they are waiving copays and deductibles related to the medical test for the virus and extending prescription refill limits in certain circumstances.

Price Gouging Hotline [State of Florida] 

If you experience a case of someone charging drastically inflated prices for items such as hand sanitizer or medical masks, reports can be made by calling 866-966-7226. More info here.

Early Learning At Home

A Child-Friendly Book about the Coronavirus [California State University] 

Developed with the aim to discuss the complex issues surrounding the Coronavirus, self-quarantine, and social distancing. With colorful illustrations, gentle wording, and advice to parents, this free book is a great way to facilitate a conversation about the coronavirus.  

Home Literacy Checklist [ReadingRockets.org]  

Reading Rockets is a resource for early literacy programs and activities. Linked is a checklist to help determine how the current environment at home promotes strong literacy and pre-literacy.  

Toddler Practice Guides for Parents [Center For Early Literacy Learning] 

The Centre for Early Literacy Learning (CELL) has a number of different activities and interactive videos for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, to help them follow a story’s narrative.  

Celebrities Reading Children's Books [Storyline Online] 

For moments when there is a lot on the plate and making time to read is difficult, StoryLine comes in handy. Used by teachers in classrooms and nurses in hospitals’ pediatric wards, children across the country watch celebrities read a wide range of classic children's books.

Community Recovery and Resilience Fund [Pinellas Community Foundation] 

Recently created to focus on meeting the needs of the most vulnerable of Pinellas County’s population through organizations best aligned to meet their needs. 

Childhood Hunger Relief Fund [Pinellas Community Foundation]  

Provides direct benefit to organizations helping hungry and food-insecure children in our community. 

St. Pete Free Clinic 

Updating current needs throughout the day due to the heavy use. Serving hundreds everyday.  

Tarpon Springs Shepherd Center 

Providing support and assistance to families in north Pinellas areas.  

Donations Needed To Help Fight COVID [Pinellas County] 

Pinellas County officials are asking for donations to help meet the needs of emergency workers. The link has a list of needed items and where to donate.

For Providers
We have heard from many of you and understand the uncertainty and stress you are under. After making your programs your life’s work, we can only imagine what you must be feeling considering the challenges you are facing. We know just how much you care about the children in your programs, their families and your dedicated staff.

The Department of Education, Office of Early Learning, and Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas are committed to providing up-to-date information and guidance to our Early Learning Community to address concerns. The health and safety of our School Readiness (SR) and Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) students, families, providers and staff is of utmost importance. This information will be updated as necessary while our communities mitigate the effects of COVID-19.

Contact staff with questions or concerns at 727-400-4411 or info@elcpinellas.org.

Policy Waivers Include:

  • Suspending SR and VPK provider contract monitoring by coalitions through June 30, 2020.
  • Extending deadline to implement an approved School Readiness curriculum until September 30, 2020. The approved list, effective July 1, 2020.
  • Waiving requirement for a minimum of 4 students in a VPK class during the remainder of the 201-2020 school year program and for the 2020 summer program. Effective May 13, 2020.
  • Reimbursing for Voluntary Prekindergarten and School Readiness. Effective March 1, 2020.
    • Providers will be paid for active enrollments in SR and VPK unless a child transfers to different provider.
    • Child Absences – The absence rules for SR and VPK have been temporarily waived. That means providers do not have to worry about the 10 day limit for SR and 20% limit for VPK. Additionally, absence documentation will not be required during this time. Providers should not change their VPK calendar or they won’t be paid for closures.
    • Provider Closures – The Temporary Closure Rules are being waived to allow for longer closures. Providers will be paid for all active SR & VPK enrollments during temporary closures related to the COVID-19 virus emergency.
    • Providers who had any closure days in April MUST complete the OEL Provider Questionnaire in order to be eligible for paid closures during the May service period (paid in June).
    • Payments for closures during the service month of June are currentlly under review and are not guaranteed.
    • Parents do not need to sign in/out if a provider is closed or their child is absent.
    • Report all closures to Tina Fetzer at tfetzer@elcpinellas.org.
  • Waiving parent co-pays for all eligible School Readiness families, regardless of their income, effective April 1.
    • Providers will be reimbursed the full rate; parent fees will not be deducted from a provider’s payment through July 31, 2020.
    • This includes children both absent and present at providers both open and closed.
    • This does not affect rate differentials charged by some providers.
  • Eliminating all remaining requirements for remaining child screenings/assessments (SR child assessment, VPK assessments and ASQ screening) and provider program assessments for the 2019-20 program year (June 30).
  • Extending timelines for provider quality improvement plans and reports.
  • Extending deadline for application for Good Cause Exemption for VPK POP3 to April 15.
  • Waiving accountability implications of the Fall 2020 kindergarten screening for VPK providers. In turn, 2019-20 VPK Readiness Rates will not be calculated.

 The purpose of this document is to assist directors and administrators in making (re)opening decisions regarding childcare programs during the COVID-19 pandemic. – CDC: Childcare-Decision-Free Flyer

PROVIDER – FAQ

Providers may prioritize enrollment of new ESS children, however if you are denying service to an SR child currently enrolled, this is not a reimbursable “absence”. In other words, if you are open, but refuse services to an SR child enrolled, you will not be paid for the child to whom you have refused services. If you no longer have capacity to serve the children enrolled at your site, ELC will assist families in finding an alternative provider. Note: If a family chooses to keep their child home due to illness or safety concerns, the provider may continue receiving payment for this enrollment.

    1. You will be paid for active enrollments in SR and VPK unless a child transfers to a different provider. As long as the child remains enrolled at your site, you will be paid.
    2. The Temporary Closure Rules are being waived to allow for longer closures
    3. Parents do not need to sign in/out if you are closed
    4. All SR parent fees will be waived, effective April 1 - July 31

    1. Yes. You will be paid for active enrollments in SR and VPK regardless of attendance.
    2. First, communicate with your coalition to inform them of any temporary closures that occurred in March before attendance is submitted.
    3. The absence rules for SR and VPK have been temporarily waived. That means you don’t have to worry about the 10 days for SR and 20% for VPK.
    4. You will not be required to collect documentation for absences.
    5. If children are absent, you do not need sign-in/out
    6. All SR parent fees will be waived, effective April 1 - July 31.

School Readiness

  1. If you are open and the child is absent, mark absences in the Provider Services Portal per usual.  Indicate D for reason “Absence due to Disaster”; comments and a documentation are not required.  The system will allow you to mark more than 10 absences.
  2. If you are closed due to COVID-19, you should report closures to tfetzer@elcpinellas.org. ELC staff will enter the closure into the system. COVID closure days will be indicated with an *.
  3. When your attendance rosters are correct, submit the completed attendance roster to the coalition in April. Note: It may take some time for ELC to enter closure days.
  4. Also submit any completed sign-in/out sheets for children who attended. These can be uploaded into portal or faxed to 7274004472.

VPK

  1. If you are open and the child is absent, mark absences for open days in the Provider Services Portal per usual
  2. If you are closed due to COVID-19, you should report closures to tfetzer@elcpinellas.org. ELC staff will enter the closure into the system. COVID closure days will be indicated with an *.
  3. When your attendance rosters are correct, submit the completed attendance roster to the coalition in April. Note: It may take some time for ELC to enter closure days.

NO, not yet. Please don’t change your 2019 VPK Provider Application class calendar due to COVID-19 at this time. All absences and temporary closures in March 2020 will be paid.

This is an individual business decision. Pinellas County Schools has adopted the following:

  1. Anyone (students/faculty/staff/etc.) who go on foreign travel, to any country, must self-isolate for 14 days upon return.
  2. Anyone (students/faculty/staff/etc.) who go on a cruise, anywhere, must self-isolate for 14 days upon return.

    1. Make sure all parents and families know that they should remain home if they are ill. It is flu season, so every fever is not a sign of COVID-19. If someone reports they “have been tested positive for coronavirus,” please verify. There are many strains of coronavirus.
    2. Childcare must be carried out in stable groups of 10 or fewer (inclusive of childcare providers for the group); children and childcare providers shall not change from one group to another; if more than one group of children is cared for at one facility, each group shall be in a separate room.
    3. Groups shall not mix or interact with each other, or have access to or use the same objects, materials, or surfaces without sanitation.
    4. All play equipment used by one group of children must be cleaned and sanitized before use by another group of children.
    5. Any child or employee exhibiting symptoms consistent with COVID-19 illness shall not be allowed to stay in the childcare facility.
    6. Screen children upon arrival for fevers.
    7. Coronavirus are equivalent to a common cold. Only a test result that shows a positive result for COVID-19 is associated with the strain you are hearing about. These results must be verified through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
    8. Be sure you are stressing the importance of handwashing. Everyone that comes through your doors should be washing their hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer if soap and water is not available. Encourage coughing and sneezing into the crook of the elbow, or a tissue that can be discarded.
    9. Clean and sanitize door knobs, computer keyboards, touch screens, tabletops, toys and other surfaces that are touched often. Clean all eating surfaces before and after use. Ensure play space is cleaned thoroughly upon closing every night in preparation for the next day of business.
    10. Screen children up on arrival for fevers.

That is an individual business decision. Several providers have indicated that they are closing to students but staff will be reporting to work. They are planning to do extensive cleaning & sanitizing, lesson planning and professional development.

Not at this time. In order to limit exposure to our providers, children and staff, we have suspended all site visits. However, we continue to be available for online and telephone consultation. We will do our best to assist in any way we can.

While we can’t mandate this, we would hope that they continue to pay their teachers to the greatest extent that they can. The rule waivers and continued payment for SR and VPK are intended to support providers in retaining their workforce. However, we realize that in the case of private-pay parents they may be unable to pay tuition during closures. We ask the providers do the best they can to continue supporting our early learning workforce.

Yes, you will be reimbursed FT for school aged children if you are providing 6 or more hours of care that is supported by your submitted sign in sign out sheet. Providers do have to manually change the PT schedule to an FT schedule on a day by day basis. The submitted sign in sign out sheet will be reviewed by your Reimbursement Specialist to confirm that the child was in care for 6 or more hours on those FT days. If a school aged child is absent; however, the schedule should remain at PT and the provider will be reimbursed at the PT daily rate since no child care was provided. Currently for May and June 2020, there is no co-payment deduction so the provider will receive their regular daily FT or PT rate per day per child. Providers should not be collecting a co-payment from their families for these two months per the OEL update. Providers can charge the difference between what the Coalition reimburses their site for each day and their site’s private pay rate listed in their 19-20 provider profile.

Yes. Providers will receive a monthly bonus/incentive of $500 per child for a maximum of $4,000 per month per provider or $12,000 for three months per provider. This bonus only applies to children in the BG1ESS funding category. The incentive is in addition to the School Readiness reimbursement rate the contracted provider receives.

The early learning coalition will offer a listing of available providers to the parent/caregiver and notify the selected provider through the Provider Portal.

Fighting Chance Fund
The Fighting Chance fund offers financial relief to small businesses impacted by local COVID-19 orders, the City of St. Petersburg has created the Fighting Chance Fund - an emergency grant for St. Pete's locally owned and independently operated small business impacted by COVID-19.The fund is expected to provide critical support to about 1,000 restaurant, bar, retail, and service-based businesses and their more than 3,000 eligible employees. The City's goal is to help offset the significant, temporary loss of revenue during this global pandemic. Child care centers are eligible.

This is a City program that provides grants (not loans) in the form of $5,000 to impacted eligible businesses* and $500 to impacted eligible individuals.

Click Here to Read More!

Short Time Compensation Program for Employers
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity's Short Time Compensation program helps employers retain their workforce in times of temporary slowdown by encouraging work sharing as an alternative to layoff.

The program permits prorated reemployment assistance benefits to employees whose work hours and earnings are reduced as part of a Short Time Compensation plan to avoid total layoff of some employees.

Click Here to Read More!

The City of Largo's Business Continuity Grant
The City of Largo's Business Continuity Grant was established to assist small businesses that have experienced economic injury resulting from the Governor's Executive Orders and Pinellas County's order mandating that they close or partially close due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The program provides a $1,000 grant, on a first-come, first-served basis, for eligible businesses to assist with commercial rent or commercial mortgage assistance to aid in business continuity, community recovery, and to prevent business closures and the loss of jobs. Information regarding business eligibility is currently posted.

BUSINESS CONTINUITY PROGRAM APPLICATION PERIOD OPENS MORNING OF MAY 1

Click Here to Read More! 

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External Resources

Employer Paid Leave Requirements [Families First Response Act] 

Details on Paid Sick Leave or Expanded Family and Medical leave for employees impacted by the Coronavirus.  

Reemployment Assistance [Florida Department of Economic Opportunity]  

Individuals laid off or sent home without pay for an extended period and those who are caring for an immediate family member who is diagnosed with the Coronavirus may qualify for temporary wage replacement.  

General Information [Florida Department of Health] 

Up-to-date facts and figures about the Coronavirus in Florida. Includes this interactive map to examine specific counties and track progression over time.  

Fact-Checking Misinformation [World Health Organization] 

The World Health Organization (WHO) corrects many of the misconceptions surrounding the Coronavirus such as interaction with the weather, potential causes, and dietary interactions.  

Compiled below are a variety of different services, resources, and guides to help ease discomfort for the duration of the Coronavirus pandemic. We will continue to update this information in the coming days and weeks as the situation evolves. 

Price Gouging Hotline [State of Florida] 

If you experience a case of someone charging drastically inflated prices for items such as hand sanitizer or medical masks, reports can be made by calling 866-966-7226. More info here.  

Cleaning and Disinfection for Community Facilities [CDC] 

Exceptionally detailed information about sanitization best practices. Most disinfectants are currently believed to kill the Coronavirus, meaning that “most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective. 

General Resources

 

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