Archive for COVID-19

[RELEASE] Early Learning Coalition Offers Assistance with Childcare

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Teresa Matheny

Chief of Programs

Episcopal Childrens Services

904-726-1500 Ext. 247 

Cell: 904-521-6803



Brighton Day Care is one of many child care centers that offer services for children in North Florida. The Early Learning Coalition is accepting applications for funding for child care. Please visit to apply. 

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Early Learning Coalition Offers Assistance with Childcare

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla., May 2, 2021 – Florida, akin to much of the country, has been hit hard by the Covid pandemic, and some parents of young children are caught in a cycle of not being able to work because childcare is not available or is too expensive. The Early Learning Coalition of North Florida (ELC) can help parents find and afford childcare to help them return to work. Families who are in need of childcare are encouraged to contact the Early Learning Coalition of North Florida for both financial help and assistance in locating childcare. The ELC is partnering with Episcopal Children’s Services (ECS) to coordinate childcare services.  For more information, contact ECS at 904-726-1500, toll free 1-800-238-3463 or visit


The average cost for childcare in Florida is $8,400 a year. For parents hovering around the poverty level, this means that childcare is one of the factors preventing families from rising above the poverty level. Another issue is that finding childcare can be very difficult. Episcopal Children’s Services Chief of Programs Teresa Matheny explained how the ELC funding program works. 


“The ELC offers financial assistance to families making up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level,” said Matheny. “Once enrolled, the family can continue to receive services until they earn up to 85 percent of the Florida Median Income. In practical numbers, this means a family of three earning up to $32,580 a year is eligible for funding and can remain in the program until their income exceeds $53,601.” 


Currently, there are waivers in place that relax the requirements for applying services.  The waivers allow individuals who are unemployed and seeking work to apply as well as those that have had a reduction in their work hours to qualify for funding through the ELC. These waivers will expire at the end of June. 


Eligible families are charged a fee based on income and family size. They may be required to make up the difference between the ELC funding and the fees charged by the childcare provider.  Matheny described the financial obligation for a hypothetical parent in the ELC program. 


“While each preschool is different, an example of this situation would be that the parent is charged a parent fee of $5 per week. The ELC pays for $150 a week to the childcare provider. If the provider normally charges $175 a week, the parent may be asked to pay $30 a week, representing the $5 parent fee plus the $25 difference,” said Matheny. 


In addition to helping parents pay for childcare, ECS will help parents locate child care as well. Currently, ECS is able to get most waitlisted children into childcare within 30 days. 


The ELC provides child care assistance to families who meet certain income requirements and who are working or going back to school. This school readiness program is designed to increase a child’s chance of achieving future educational success. The ELC also administers and manages Florida’s FREE VPK (voluntary pre-kindergarten program for four-year-olds).  For more information about the Early Learning Coalition of North Florida and its other programs and services, please visit, or call 904-342-2267.



Sponsored by the State of Florida, Office of Early Learning.


Governor DeSantis’ Lifts Child Care Restrictions

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DCF logo

Please see Governor DeSantis’ Executive Order 20-131 that lifts restrictions on child care programs and allows summer camps and youth programs to become operational effective as of May 22, 2020.

As a result of the Executive Order, please see the following updates on capacity and group sizes for all registered and licensed child care providers:

  1. Are there limitations on capacity? Only limitations on capacity as licensed. Providers are encouraged to consider recommendations for group sizes and social distancing measures issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  2. Are there limitations on group sizes? No; however, the CDC recommends that group sizes remain small and that there be no mixing of one group with another group.

For licensing ratios, the Office of Child Care Regulation or the local licensing agency, will continue to monitor and cite for any violations.

Taskforce Report to Open Florida

Executive Order 20-131

ELC Recognizes Leaps & Bounds Preschool for Going the Extra Mile

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ELC would like to recognize Leaps & Bounds Preschool for all the extra care they give to their students right now.

❤️ Providers are taping VPK lessons and sharing the YouTube videos with their parents for the children that are staying at home.

Marian recording lesson for preschoolers.jpg

💙 They are making pick-up packets of work to go along with the VPK lessons.

💛 They are making and sending snack & meals with students who leave early for the day.

delivered Easter goody bags to the kiddos who have been home due to Corona.jpg

❤️ They are providing care for about 30 kids a day.

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Libbie from Leaps & Bounds expressed how appreciative they are for funding right now for school readiness and VPK and are doing everything they can to keep moving forward.

Thank you for caring for our community because you, like many of the parents you serve are “essential”!

#Covid19UnsungHeroes #ELCsTakeAction

Sponsorship by the Early Learning Coalition of North Florida and the state of Florida, Office of Early Learning.

Early Learning Coalition of North Florida

Sponsorship by the State of Florida, Office of Early Learning.

ELC Recognizes Sugar N’ Spice Preschool for Amazing Work

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ELC would like to recognize Sugar N’ Spice Preschool for all the amazing things they are doing for students right now.


❤️ They have created distance learning packets for toddler – VPK students and update them with new materials every two weeks.


💙 They are working with parents, teachers and administrators to help their elementary/school-aged students with their distance learning by creating a “computer lab” and a schedule so that each student gets to visit the “lab” twice a day as well as use the computer center during free time.


💛 To help parents and students with this new learning adventure, they have also created school-aged packets for kindergarten to 6th grade students with supplemental learning materials, all while still giving them opportunities for brain breaks that include; art, science, outside time and cooking projects.

❤️ They are servicing 80- 100 students of “essential” workers while following our state and local officials guidance concerning group size, morning health/fever checks, escorting students to and from their classrooms and frequent sanitizing of classrooms and common areas.


Angie from Sugar N’ Spice says “It is my hope that we can be a service and show God’s Love to our families and community whether or not their students are here at school or at home. In the end we are all doing our best.”

Thank you for caring for our community because you, like many of the parents you serve are “essential”!

#Covid19UnsungHeroes #ELCsTakeAction

Sponsorship by the Early Learning Coalition of North Florida and the state of Florida, Office of Early Learning.

Early Learning Coalition of North Florida

ELC of North Florida Volunteers Making a Creative Impact

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Image/Caption: Early Learning Coalition of North Florida Volunteer, Erika Bauserman St. Augustine creates videos to connect with preschool children. She is standing in front of the Lighthouse in St. Augustine, Fla. #ELCsTakeAction #Covid19UnsungHeroes 

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ELC of North Florida Volunteers Making a Creative Impact


ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla., April 14, 2020 – Since preschool and child care centers are following CDC safety recommendations, volunteers are no longer admitted in local preschools for reading time. However, Early Learning Coalition of North Florida (ELC) literacy volunteers are finding creative ways to still stay in touch with the children they have been reading to all year. 

One of the creative ways volunteers are still giving back is through the use of digital communication, shared with the preschools. For instance, Volunteer Margo Locke who reads weekly at “A Fun Place to Be” in Northern St. Augustine is reading to children through Facebook videos. The teachers say it is reassuring for the children to see familiar faces like their reading volunteer and to keep to their normal routines as much as possible.  

ELC volunteer Erika Bauserman of St. Augustine, who reads at Brighton Day Academy is now making videos to share with the children. Her first video is called “Where in St. Augustine Am I?” Bauserman traveled around St. Augustine and took pictures of local landmarks giving short facts about each one. Her latest video is called “Compound Words Around Town.” She filmed items that are compound words like, butterfly, flowerpot, motorcycle and woodpecker.  

“The children love the videos and keep asking for more,” said Miss Donna, Brighton’s three and four-year old teacher.

“I miss seeing my kids so much and I want to stay in touch while at the same time teaching them something,” said Bauserman. 

Bauserman’s videos can be viewed at the ELC’s North Florida YouTube playlists page where their early education videos are featured.

It is challenging right now for child care centers and preschools to stay open (See state of child care article: but it is necessary because they are serving the children of our essential workers and first responders. 

The North Florida coalition is so proud of it’s many volunteers who give of their time so freely to help our youngest citizens according to Literacy Outreach Manager Joan Whitson.  

For more information about volunteering with the Early Learning Coalition of North Florida contact Early Literacy Outreach Manager Joan Whitson at: The Early Learning Coalition of North Florida’s website and facebook page has up-to-date resources for providers and parents in addition to their child care services, school readiness services and VPK programs. Please visit online at or on Facebook at #ELCsTakeAction #Covid19UnsungHeroes


[NEWS RELEASE] Florida Governor Deems Child Care as an Essential Business

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State of Child Care Services in North Florida During the Coronavirus

Ms. Christina educates at Brighton Day Academy preschool in St. Augustine on Thursday, April 3, 2020, one of the child care centers in North Florida willing to be open to serve essential workers during the coronavirus. #ELCsTakeAction #Covid19UnsungHeroes

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla., April 4, 2020 – Despite stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus crisis, essential personnel with children still have a need for high-quality and accessible child care. To aid workers, Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis has deemed child care an essential business. Child care centers are currently operating at only half-capacity in North Florida counties; however, parents can be matched for immediate openings at willing centers through a centralized resource hotline.


The Early Learning Coalition of North Florida (ELC) gives support to parents of children ages birth to five years by managing the Child Care Resource and Referral Network (CCRR), Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) and School Readiness programs in the counties of St. Johns, Clay, Nassau, Putnam, Baker and Bradford. Parents can call ELC’s Child Care Resource and Referral Network to be matched to child care services at 1-800-238-3463 ext. 7702. 


Because of the support of early childhood educators willing to ensure that both the safety of their children and the needs of the community are met, those in medicine, first responders and grocery store workers are able to report to duty during this crisis. It may also take the burden of child care off aging grandparents, who may be at higher risk for the coronavirus.


ELC, along with the Office for Early Learning in Florida, are suggesting that providers do what they can to stay open for those who need care. Help is available for them as well as parents. 


Continuing the child care system enables parents to work and earn money to support their families, a critical component of economic stability and growth, as well as helping children to meet developmental milestones, according to ELC.


What Kind of Child Care Help Is Available for Parents?


The Child Care Resource and Referral Network (CCRR) has been in place to help families find care that is easily accessible, educational, safe and affordable. Additionally, ELC’s managed School Readiness programs allow families who meet certain income requirements to enroll their children in daycare. Parents pay a co-payment based on a sliding fee scale and developmental screenings are conducted by ELC. 


 “We work with our primary service provider, Episcopal Children’s Services, to offer resources for parents who need to find quality and affordable child care through our hotlines,” said CEO of ELC North Florida Dawn Bell. “We are monitoring things very closely and will continue to offer our services as is our mission to help children and families.” 


Parents can call the Child Care Resource and Referral Network at 1-800-238-3463 ext. 7702 or email 


More information can be found on the homepage of The Early Learning Coalition of North Florida’s website


Pertinent Information Regarding Child Care in North Florida During COVID-19


What Centers are Now Open? 


Episcopal Children’s Services (ECS) keeps a current list of all centers, their capacity, and the ability to take in new families through actively surveying centers. According to ECS’ Chief of Programs and Administration Teresa Matheny, when parents call, they will be able to find placement within counties for services. 


“Our child care centers have really embraced our request to be available for parents,” said Matheny.


“Some of the centers cannot operate at full capacity due to CDC guidelines. Centers are limiting their ratio of providers to children per room, and at the same time, many have parents now staying at home so spots are opening up,” said Matheny. “Our centers are following protocols for safety to minimize risks as much as possible. I would strongly recommend parents call us.” 


First responders have been able to find child care so far in ELC North Florida’s counties, but there are some shortages in counties like Bradford, according to Matheny. Also, some centers like Brighton Day Academy preschool would be willing to keep their day care open for night-shift workers 24/7 if needed. 


““We are taking every precaution for safety during these times.  No parents are allowed past the lobby and we take each child and staff member’s temperature before they are allowed back into the classroom area,” said Tracy Roberts,  Director at Brighton Day Academy in St. Augustine. “We are open to business and still enrolling. We have fewer children enrolled right now but are working hard to keep all of our staff on the payroll.  Our priority is and has always been to the safety and well being of the children in our care.”


What Are Child Care Centers Doing Now to Be Safe?


Providers are taking guidance from the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to determine how to operate. Guidelines from FDOH can be found here:


They also received the following guidelines to adhere to from the Department of Children and Families, Office of Child Care Regulation. 


These include: 

  • Require pickup and drop-off in the lobby/entry way of the operation, unless it’s determined there is a legitimate need for the parent to enter an operation. For example, meet the parent at the pickup area and escort the child to the parent.
  • Prohibit any person except the following from accessing an operation: operation staff; persons with legal authority to enter, including law enforcement officers, Child Care Licensing staff, and Department of Children and Families protective services staff; professionals providing services to children; children enrolled at the operation; and parents or legal guardians who have children enrolled and present at the operation.
  • Limiting students and employees to no more than 10 people in a single occupied space, therefore breaking students into groups as necessary, maintaining social distancing best practices for proper hygiene.
  • Ensuring students get individual meals and snacks; not family style. 
  • Any person that is allowed to enter must be screened for fever, cough, respiratory symptoms and he/she should not have traveled outside the country in 14 days or have been in contact with a COVID-19 positive person. 


What Crisis Support is Provided to Parents Needing Child Care? 


The parent fee is being waived for those who are part of the School Readiness subsidized child care program that ELC North Florida manages. The Office of Early Learning will pay the entire cost of that fee. This also means parents will not have to come up with that portion right now and their providers will still be paid. 


  • VPK programs are still being fully funded and supported although not all programs remain open.
  • ALL terminations of School Readiness eligibility are suspended.
  • Timelines required for ALL redeterminations of School Readiness eligibility are extended.
  • Required documentation for School Readiness child absences are waived.


What Is Being Done to Help Child Care and VPK Centers to Stay Afloat? 


The Office of Early Learning (OEL), in addition to waiving the parent fee, will continue to pay centers per child enrolled before the crisis for those who are part of the subsidized school readiness program and VPK while providers are open.


Additionally, they are: 

  • Reimbursing School Readiness and VPK providers during temporary closures related to the COVID-19 virus emergency.
  • Cancelling remaining child screenings and assessments for both School Readiness and VPK.
  • Extending timelines for provider improvement plans and reports.
  • Waiving accountability implications of the fall 2020 kindergarten screening for VPK providers – which means that 2019-20 VPK readiness rates will not be calculated.
  • Canceling remaining School Readiness program assessments.


While OEL’s plan doesn’t help centers whose parents pay the centers directly, there is also some other government relief for small business owners as of mid-March which may be applicable to many child care centers . 


Governor Ron DeSantis put into action the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s Emergency Bridge Loan Program to provide short-term, interest-free loans to small businesses. According to the guidelines, These short-term, interest-free working capital loans are intended to “bridge the gap” between the time a major catastrophe hits and when a business has secured longer term recovery resources, such as sufficient profits from a revived business, receipt of payments on insurance claims or federal disaster assistance.


Additionally, providers can participate in the Paycheck Protection Program which allows a small business that employs 500 employees or fewer to receive loans. A document from the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business answers questions regarding how to apply for the new emergency loans; eligibility; terms and guidelines available to small businesses under the CARES Act signed into law by President Trump on Friday, March 27, 2020 Visit this link to learn more:


Child Care Centers can apply for both the Emergency Bridge Loan Program and the Paycheck Protection Program at the same time.  


What Should Parents Do Right Now? 

Still wondering what to do as a parent? You’re not alone. 


As a word of encouragement to parents discerning the choice to put their child in care, Matheny offers, “As a parent this is a tough time and what is the right thing to do. Know we care about your children and follow best practices but always trust your gut when it comes to your child. You are doing the right thing.” 


The Early Learning Coalition of North Florida’s website and facebook page has up-to-date resources for providers and parents in addition to their child care services, school readiness services and VPK programs. Please visit online at or on Facebook at


The Early Learning Coalition of North Florida (ELC) supports potential and current providers through Episcopal Children’s Services, the ELC’s contracted primary service provider. Episcopal Children’s Services is available to offer information about starting a new child care business (including directing to DCF for licensing) and enhancing your program. Episcopal Children’s Services is eager to assist providers with Contracting with the Coalition and with questions about the VPK and School Readiness programs. Contact ECS at 904-726-1500, extension 7054. #ELCsTakeAction #Covid19UnsungHeroes


Contact: Dawn Bell, CEO, Early Learning Coalition of North Florida


Phone: (904) 342-2267 ext. 204 (office); (904) 377-5248 (cell)

Image/Caption: Ms. Christina educates preschoolers at Brighton Day Academy in St. Augustine on Thursday, April 3, 2020. Brighton Day Academy is one of the child care centers willing to be open to serve essential workers during the coronavirus in North Florida. #ELCsTakeAction #Covid19UnsungHeroes

Photo Link:



Early Learning Coalition of North Florida

[APRIL 3 WEBINAR] States’ Response to COVID-19 and Child Care – Part 1

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Child Care Aware® of America is hosting two upcoming webinars this week to help you understand the latest developments in funding and response efforts across the nation.

Join our new webinar series focusing on how states are responding to coronavirus

Friday, April 3, 2:15-3:15 p.m. EDT

In this first part of this webinar series, we are looking at how Vermont and Minnesota are responding to the coronavirus pandemic — specifically, what decisions they’re making about child care. We’ll look at their response around emergency care, supporting families with critical child care decisions, child care subsidies and supporting providers to care for essential workers’ children. You’ll hear from Aly Richards, CEO of Let’s Grow Kids and Ann McCully, Executive Director at Child Care Aware of Minnesota.

[Join the Webinar]


[APRIL 2 WEBINAR] Learn How to Sustain Your Child Care Program During COVID-19

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Child Care Aware® of America is hosting two upcoming webinars this week to help you understand the latest developments in funding and response efforts across the nation.

Learn How to Sustain Your Child Care Program During COVID-19

Thursday, April 2, 1:00-2:00 p.m. EDT

Last Friday, the President signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which includes dedicated child care funding within its $2 trillion stimulus package. Child care providers will learn what this funding means for them and hear an overview of the various business supports that are currently available to help sustain their child care business during this pandemic.

[Join the Webinar]