CORONAVIRUS / COVID-19 EEC Frequently Asked Questions

Note: UPDATED below highlights a Q&A that has updated information as of March 14, 2020

EEC is authorized by its regulations to waive regulations and policies when a state of emergency has been declared by the state or federal government. Additionally, EEC may within its own discretion issue a written variance of any EEC regulations or policies. See 606 CMR 7.04(3)(c).

Given that there is a state of emergency, EEC is working to support providers, families, and communities as quickly as possible, including exercising its authority to vary from its regulations in the following ways described throughout the document below.

Updated March 14, 2020 

 

  1. How do I talk to young children about the coronavirus?

    For guidance on how to help children understand what’s going on, please click here.

  2. Governor Baker declared a State of Emergency. What does that mean for us?

    The State of Emergency does not automatically mean that schools and businesses should close. This is simply a legal step the Governor must take to allow the state to respond to emerging needs in a timely way with the greatest amount of flexibility possible. Each program must make its own informed decision and we encourage you to collaborate with your local board of health and school district for updates.

  3. UPDATED: What is the official policy for handling program closures?

    EEC will be issuing a formal policy with specific procedures for programs that choose to close during this time. As of now, a program that chooses to temporarily close must inform the following entities—in writing—within 24 hours of the date of closure:

    • Your local board or department of health;
    • Your EEC licensor or the licensor of the day in the appropriate regional office;
    • The parents of all children in care; and
    • If you are a subsidy recipient, your Child Care Resource and Referral Agency (CCR&R).
  4. If we believe that there has been exposure in our program, should we close the program, and if so, for how long?

    We understand that these are difficult decisions to make, and the health and safety of a program’s staff, administrators, children, and families is the top priority. Please refer to our Guidance to Early Education and Care Providers Regarding COVID-19 to help inform your decisions.

  5. What do we need to share with parents at this stage?

    EEC has drafted an initial sample email to share with parents as you see fit, which you can find here. Please note, all parents must be notified if it is confirmed that an individual within the program—e.g. child, parent, staff, volunteer, household member (if family childcare)—has tested positive for COVID-19. The identity of the person who has tested positive for COVID-19 must not be disclosed.

  6. If a household member in a family childcare home is required to self-quarantine due to exposure, can the program continue to care for children?

    Family childcare homes should not continue to care for children if a resident of the household is required to self-quarantine due to potential exposure or infection. Please take the following steps if this applies to you:

    • Notify EEC immediately so the program can be placed on temporary inactive status
    • Notify parents as soon as possible
    • Facilitate access to back-up care as available for children enrolled in your program
       
  7. What information can programs share with families about minimizing risk?

    The draft letter EEC has provided can be used to notify families about the steps they should take to minimize exposure for other families, children, and staff in the program, including guidance regarding notification of their childcare provider if any member of the household has recently traveled to a high-risk country, has been potentially exposed to the virus, or is exhibiting symptoms.
     

  8. UPDATED: How can a program quickly open an alternative site temporarily if its current site is closed related to the COVID-19 outbreak (e.g. an afterschool program in a public school that chooses to close)?

    Talk to your licensor for specific accommodations. Your licensor will elevate any regulations that stand in the way for consideration by the Commissioner.

  9. What is the best way to reach EEC regarding questions about licensing?

    Please contact your licensor directly, or the licensor of the day in the appropriate regional office. You can also reach EEC directly at office.commissioners@mass.gov.

  10. UPDATE: Can I receive reimbursement for subsidized children if I close my program due to COVID-19?
    • A program that closes due to COVID-19 related reasons in accordance with official EEC policy for handling program closures (see question #3) may be paid for the duration of the closure. This refers to all types of closures, whether it is mandated or you choose to proactively suspend operations.
    • EEC will reimburse programs for subsidized children if the program has a COVID-19-related closure.
    • A program that closes to sanitize the location may be reimbursed for no more than 3 consecutive days (note: the CDC recommends that cleaning procedures begin one day after a program has suspended operations). There is nothing that restricts more than one round of 3-day closures for sanitization.
    • Programs that close without following the proper EEC notification protocol may not be reimbursed.

    If you are a Family Child Care System, Child Care Resource & Referral Agency or a Voucher-only provider, please refer to the Emergency Reimbursement Guidelines for COVID-19 posted in the notification section of CCFA.

  11. UPDATED: What if my local board of health advises my program to close for more than 3 days? Will centers be reimbursed for that?

    Yes. EEC will pay for subsidized children impacted by any COVID-19-related closures during this time.

  12. What documentation do I need to keep on file for reimbursement and for auditing purposes?

    You will be required to provide proof of the following:

    • Notification to the local board of health regarding the closure
    • Notification to EEC licensing of the closure
    • All parent notifications must be kept on file
    • Family Child Care Providers must notify your affiliated Family Child Care System of closures days
      • Family Child Care Providers not associated with an FCC System are required to notify their Child Care Resource and Referral Agency
    • Closure Notification to EEC Fiscal Unit sent to eecsubsidymanagement@mass.gov
       
  13. Can an FCC System provider close and receive reimbursement when the children are assigned to substitute care?

    The FCC System will receive payment on behalf of FCC providers that are closed due to COVID-19, even if EEC pays for substitute care. EEC will reimburse substitute FCC care providers the daily reimbursement rate and deduct the parent and FCC administration fees. If you provide subsidized care, please refer to the Emergency Reimbursement Guidelines for COVID-19 posted in the notification section of CCFA. All EEC payments received by FCC Systems must be distributed to FCC Providers in accordance with EEC requirements.

  14. UPDATED: Can a center-based provider close and receive reimbursement when the children are assigned to a different location of care?

    Center-based providers will receive payment for locations of care that are moved due to COVID-19, even if the families choose not to attend the new location. If a child is absent, EEC will reimburse the provider’s daily reimbursement rate for the level of care that would have been provided at the new location (subject to the parent’s authorized level of care) minus any parent fee. Please refer to the Emergency Reimbursement Guidelines for COVID-19 posted in the notification section of CCFA for further guidance.

  15. UPDATED: What do I do if I need to cancel a Professional Day or QRIS day due to COVID-19?

    The current process to reschedule training has not changed. If you are a voucher-only provider, email your CCR&R with information on the change. If you are an EEC Contracted Provider, instead of revising your Holiday Closure Calendar and sending it to the Contract Unit, EEC is requesting that you email your changes to eecsubsidymanagement@mass.gov

    Please remember to update the revised schedule in CCFA for training previously scheduled during March 11th thru April 30th. If the training needs to be rescheduled, it must be rescheduled to be held during this fiscal year. There will be no penalty if a day cancelled during this time frame cannot be rescheduled prior to the end of the fiscal year.

    If you want to convert an on-site training to a training that the providers can complete at home, please note this in CCFA when updating the schedule by entering in the comment section “Rescheduled due to COVID-19.”

  16. UPDATED: Is my program required to charge parent fees to subsidized families, or bill for private pay tuition, if we close due to COVID-19?

     EEC will reimburse your daily reimbursement rate for all subsidized children minus the parent fee. Programs can opt to charge the parent fees, but EEC is recommending that you use discretion under provider’s billing policies and practices so as not to penalize families who may be under financial stress due to the current situation. EEC is not requiring you to collect parent fees to receive EEC reimbursement. We recommend the same discretion be applied to private pay families during this time, and there will be no penalty from EEC for waiving fees to any families.  EEC is recommending that providers and Child Care Resource and Referral agencies work with parents who have reduced income to address reductions in parent fees, as allowed under this COVID-10 emergency policy (see question #18). 

    Note: These rules only apply to COVID-19 related closures. For policies on other emergency closures, please refer to EMB FY2012-02 and EMB FY2012-07. More information about how to code those will be coming later this week.
     

  17. UPDATED: Will subsidized families still be charged fees while programs are closed?

    There will not be a penalty for providers who choose not to collect parent fees under the COVID-19 emergency policy. Due to budget restrictions, however, at this time EEC cannot cover the loss of funding due to non-collection of parent fees.

  18. What if a child is quarantined or otherwise unable to attend? Will their absences count?

    Children who need to be quarantined or have other COVID-19-related absences may use the Medical Waiver process in CCFA. “Other COVID-19 related illnesses” includes all situations including, but not limited to, children who have been instructed to remain out of the program due to other symptoms or parents who wish to keep their children home due to concerns. Days the child is out of the program will be recorded as absences but the Medical Waiver process will keep the days from being counted towards the child’s absence limit. For documentation, the parent should complete Section I of the Excessive Absence Medical Waiver form. Section II of the form does not need to be completed by a medical professional but if available, the parent should attach documentation from a doctor, local board of health, or other entity instructing the need for a quarantine. If you provide subsidized care, please refer to the Emergency Reimbursement Guidelines for COVID-19 posted in the notification section of CCFA.

  19. UPDATED: What about unexplained absences?

    In a public health crisis, it’s more important than ever for parents to be informing providers if their children are attending on a daily basis. Providers should work with parents to ensure timely communications of any absences so they can be coded correctly for EEC reporting. Please ensure that parents understand the importance of communicating about attendance during this time and are clear on their obligation to report all absences. For coding of COVID-19 related absences, please see guidance in question 18.

  20. What happens if my location is closed, what is the process in CCFA?

    If you provide subsidized care, please refer to the Emergency Reimbursement Guidelines for COVID-19 posted in the notification section of CCFA. EEC will reimburse for subsidized children during closures, provided the specific coding for absences and closures is abided by in CCFA.

  21. If a someone has scheduled Paid Time Off (PTO) and our program is closed for sanitization or quarantine, can that person request to cancel their PTO?

    Yes, under these circumstances the provider can request to cancel the PTO day prior to, or up to 7 days after, the scheduled date.
     

  22. What if a family is unwilling or unable to attend an authorization appointment in person as a result of concerns related to exposure to COVID-19, or is otherwise unable to reauthorize in a timely manner? What if a Subsidy Administrator is concerned about in-person authorization appointments with parents?

    The in-person subsidy reauthorization policy is waived for families affected by COVID-19 under this emergency policy. FCC Systems, Contract Providers, and CCR&Rs should work with the families to obtain the documentation via e-mail. If a parent can’t send you the required documentation by e-mail, please contact eecsubsidymanagement@mass.gov on a case-by-case basis for assistance. To allow EEC to prioritize these cases, please use the subject line “Reauthorization COVID-19 Authorization End Date [insert end client date]” EEC asks that all subsidy administrators respect social distancing standards and to the extent possible provide phone or video conferencing options while maintaining regularly scheduled business.

  23. UPDATED: If a Lead Teacher is quarantined during this emergency, can an Assistant Teacher—who has been fully background checked—act as Lead Teacher?

    EEC is issuing a temporary policy allowing an Assistant Teacher, with a suitable background record check, to be permitted to work in a group and school age childcare program without requiring the direct supervision of at least a teacher qualified staff person. Group and school age childcare programs are not required to maintain the required number of Lead Teachers in the program during this State of Emergency, pursuant to 606 CMR 7.04(18)(g).

  24. UPDATED: Will our classroom ratio requirements still apply during this time, if staff are affected by COVID-19?

    Yes. In order to ensure the health and safety of children, all other ratio and supervision requirements still apply at this time during this State of Emergency. If this becomes impossible to maintain for a provider at a specific time, please communicate with your licensor immediately so EEC can support additional accommodations.

  25. UPDATED: How should CCR&R trainings proceed?

    Please follow the guidance issued by your local communities and through the guidance provided by Department of Public Health and the Department of Early Education and Care.

  26. UPDATED: Should we continue to follow toothbrushing regulations, given the public health concern?

    EEC is issuing a policy stating that programs will not be cited for not following the regulation requiring that educators assist children in brushing their teeth while in care for more than four hours or whenever children consume a meal while in care. During the State of Emergency, childcare programs should use their best judgement in determining whether it is safe and sanitary for children and staff to brush their teeth. Programs should continue to adhere to all other EEC regulations pertaining to child safety and sanitation and should take all proper precautions to prevent the spread of disease, including best practices in handwashing.

  27. UPDATED: How will in-person background record checks (BRC) be handled during this time?

    EEC is working to develop an expedited process for background record checks. Our goal is to ensure that all checks continue seamlessly despite closures and social distancing measures. Please reach out to your licensor if there is an expedited BRC that you need performed to ensure the safety of children in your care during this time.

  28. UPDATED: What if my license expires while I am closed?

    EEC will work with programs that closed during the State of Emergency and whose licenses have expired during that period of time. Programs are required to notify their licensors in writing prior to re-opening.

  29. UPDATED: I’m a parent. What will happen to my subsidy if I’m laid off?

    A parent who has been laid off due to the impacts of the COVID-19 health emergency will be considered by EEC to have a Temporary Change. For documentation, you must complete a Temporary Change Form and whatever documentation you can provide from your employer about the layoff. If this layoff or reduction in hours will cross into the time where a parent needs to reauthorize subsidized child care, subsidy administrators should please contact eecsubsidymanagement@mass.gov on a case-by-case basis for detailed assistance. EEC encourages all providers to talk to parents about any changes in employment or income and process reductions in income as allowed under policy.

  30. UPDATED: I am a parent on a subsidy and my work hours and income have gone down, but I cannot provide four weeks of paystubs yet to prove the reduction in income. Is there anything else I can submit to reduce my parent fee now?

    Under this COVID-19 emergency policy, EEC is relaxing the documentation requirements for parents who have reduced income and need to reduce their parent fee. For documentation, the parent should complete a Household Income Statement and documentation of the reduced income (one paystub or a letter from the employer detailing the reduced hours/income). EEC encourages all providers to talk to parents about any changes in employment or income and process reductions in income.

  31. UPDATED: Will this emergency situation impact appeals and variance requests?

    EEC has developed an emergency response plan to ensure continued staff ability to issue decisions on appeals remotely.

  32. UPDATED: What’s happening with EEC site visits to homes and programs?

    Until further notice, EEC staff will continue site visits unless there is a health concern on the part of the EEC staff member, or a safety concern specific to the site being visited (for example, a potential exposure).

For more questions not addressed in this document, please email us at office.commissioners@mass.gov. We will be checking this inbox frequently.

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