Questions and Answers about the Impact of the Coronavirus on Child Care in California

We update the Q&As below when new guidance or policies are issued.

This FAQ was created by the Child Care Law Center in collaboration with Public Counsel to provide you general information about the law. It should not be viewed as legal or other professional advice.
If you have further questions please contact:
1. Should I close my family child care program? (Last updated 3/27/20)

Following is our interpretation of Executive Order 33-20. We expect that the state will  issue new guidance specific to child care. Please check this space frequently.

On March 22, 2020, Governor Newsom issued a public health order affecting all California businesses and residences – including family child care homes.

The order says that only essential infrastructure businesses may stay open.

As a child care provider, you can only stay open to care for children of essential workers, and must use heightened cleaning and distancing rules in place for COVID-19. This means that there is now a statewide order to close all child care centers and family child care homes unless they are caring for a child of a parent or guardian working in one of the 16 essential sectors.

The Governor explains that essential services are things like: gas stations, pharmacies, grocery stores, food banks, take-out and delivery, banks, laundry, agriculture, healthcare, transportation, communications, essential state and local government functions.

Here is the Q&A on child care from the Governor’s new public health order:

“Are daycares still open? Can my babysitter still come to the house?

Yes. Daycares are still open, but only for children of parents working in essential sectors. Daycare centers that remain open should employ heightened cleaning and distancing requirements. Babysitters may also come to the house to care for minors of parents working in essential sectors.” https://covid19.ca.gov/stay-home-except-for-essential-needs/

Community Care Licensing provided guidance on what child care providers should do to prevent, contain and reduce the spread of the Coronavirus. See PIN 20-04-CCP. At this time, Licensing is still encouraging providers to stay open if they can do so safely. This guidance is now modified by the Governor’s Order limiting child care centers and homes to only caring for children of our essential workforce. See, Essential Critical Workforce.

Please continue to check this Coronavirus FAQ and the California Child Care Licensing website for updates. In addition, you can email Community Care Licensing at CCLCOVID-19INFO@dss.ca.gov with your specific questions.

If you are exempt from the statewide closure order because you are caring for children of our essential workforce, then whether you should close your family child care is a personal choice.  Currently, general public health advice is that the best way to stop the spread of the Coronavirus is to stay home and limit unnecessary social interactions.

As of March 19, the Governor has ordered the entire state to shelter in place, requiring all non-essential services or businesses to close their doors and cease all activities. An essential service is not necessarily a mandatory service.

During this time, families who must work will need child care and their children will need stability and continuity of care. However, as a family child care provider, when making a decision on whether you should continue providing care for children in your home, you should consider such things like:

    1.   Are you over 60 years old or do you have a compromised immune system?
    2.   Are there other people in your home who are over 60 years old or have compromised immune systems?
    3.  Do you have enough space in your home to keep children about 6 feet apart for most of the day?
    4.  Are you able to carry out child care in stable groups of 12 or fewer (“stable” means that the same 12 or fewer children are in the same group each day)?
    5.  Can you afford to close for a few weeks or for an extended period of time?
    6.  How many families in your care must keep going to work outside the home and still need child care?

The Child Care Law Center is committed to supporting child care providers and advising you on your legal rights. While we cannot advise you on your ultimate decision, our goal is to make sure you have the information needed to make an informed decision.

2. What has Community Care Licensing changed to help essential workers in need of child care and to help providers who want to care for the children of essential workers? (Last updated 3/24/20)

Licensing has made several temporary changes to licensing rules in response to the current Coronavirus emergency. One temporary change is that all annual inspections are temporarily suspended so that Licensing can focus on helping licensees contain and reduce the impact of the Coronavirus.

Licensing has also created several “waivers” that temporarily loosen child care licensing requirements. In order to use any of these waivers, you must first notify your Child Care Regional Office in writing. Call Licensing to learn more and ask about how you can use these waivers. The official descriptions of the waivers can be found here.

Staff to Child Ratio Waiver:

Family child care homes and child care centers (including school-age and infant care centers) may relax the child to staff ratio, as long as the health and safety of children is not compromised. Under this temporary waiver, the ratio of children to staff in a family child care home cannot be greater than 10:1. Note that this waiver does not apply to staffing for water activities.

Capacity Waiver:

A child care facility, not including a large family child care home, may waive capacity requirements if there is an immediate need for child care in the area due to school closures as a result of the Coronavirus. But staffing must be sufficient to meet the health and safety needs of the children. Small family child care homes cannot care for more than 14 children.

TrustLine providers can care for the children of more than one family at a time as long as the provider is able to meet the needs of the children in care and the ratio of children to provider does not go above 10:1.

Criminal Record Background Clearance Waiver:

Trustline providers and new staff may be able to start caring for children earlier by transferring criminal record clearances or child abuse clearances that they already have. Call Community Care Licensing to learn about transferring background clearances.

Personnel Requirements Waivers:

    • Tuberculosis (TB) testing: New staff may start working immediately if they submit proof of a TB clearance, including a certificate of TB clearance or physician’s report, within the last year. New staff must then make arrangements to obtain a current TB clearance.
    • Staff Training: Staff training requirements have been loosened. New staff can start work as soon as they provide proof of completion of first aid training, which can be completed online.
    • TrustLine application fees are now waived. You do not need to pay the application fee for Trustline.

Employer-Sponsored “Pop-up” Child Care: 

Licensing will now allow employers to create “pop-up” child care services for their children and their employees’ children. First, the employer must contact their Child Care Regional Office for approval. The children to caregiver ratio cannot be more than 10:1.

3. I was in the process of getting my large family child care license. Will licensing still be doing my pre-inspection? How can I expedite the process so I can start caring for more children? (Last updated 3/23/20)

Community care licensing has not suspended pre-licensing inspections, however, non-urgent inspections (such as pre-licensing inspections) will be on hold until further notice. Please also note that Community care licensing has suspended all annual inspections for licensed family child care providers at this time.

If you are currently a licensed provider and are in the process of requesting a change in your license from a small to a large, you may be able to waive capacity requirements if there is an immediate need for child care in your area due to school closures as a result of the Coronavirus. In some cases, small family child care homes may be able to care for up to 14 children.

In order to do this, you first have to notify your Child Care Regional Office in writing. Call Licensing to learn more about how to use this temporary rule, which is called a “capacity waiver.” Community Care Licensing Provider Information Notice (PIN) 20-04-CCP (Page 9) provides guidance on how to use the waivers: https://www.cdss.ca.gov/Portals/9/CCLD/PINs/2020/CCP/PIN_20-04-CCP.pdf

If you are in the process of getting licensed as a small family child care home, currently there is no plan to expedite this initial licensing process. New providers who have submitted their applications or plan to submit their application, should call Community Care Licensing directly to inquire about the status of their application. Processing of applications will be made on a case-by-case determination.

4. If I need to close my family child care home due to the Coronavirus outbreak, may I still charge families? (Last updated 3/25/20)

Whether you can continue to charge families when you are closed due to Coronavirus depends on what it says in your contract with families. Your contract would need to say that you charge families for times when you are not open due to a public health emergency. If it does not say this, then you cannot charge families if you were to close due to the Coronavirus outbreak. 

Some providers are now asking their families to sign an addendum to their contract saying that the family must continue to pay if they close due to a public health emergency.  Families may feel it’s unfair to ask them to sign this additional contract now. If families refuse to sign the new contract, you will need to try and work with your families on a different change, agree not to require that change, or stop providing child care to those families. Even if they do sign, parents and caregivers who are out of work and not getting child care may be unable to pay. Providers may decide to make individualized agreements and/or payment plans with each parent. All contact addendums or changes must be in writing and signed by the family to be enforceable.

During this time when we have the Governor’s “stay at home” order in place for the entire state, a contract signed before the pandemic might not cover these kinds of unforeseen, unpredictable or emergency circumstances.

If you have liability insurance for your child care business, read your policy carefully to see if you have coverage when there is a public health epidemic or a civil order to close. Homeowners or business liability insurance will most likely not cover loss of business income. However, some business property insurance policies may cover loss of income.

See Q.9 below to see if you might be eligible for Disaster Unemployment Insurance.

5. If a child in my care has a subsidy, will I still be paid for that child if I close? (Last updated 3/25/20)

The California Department of Education (CDE) has just issued new emergency guidance that temporarily suspends attendance and reporting requirements, and continues subsidy payments for centers and family child care providers who are forced to close due to the Coronavirus. Management Bulletin 20-04.  If a child in your care has a child care subsidy through CDE you can be reimbursed for up to 30 days of non-operation. These temporary rules are in effect through June 30, 2020, but may be extended.

If you need to close, you should be reimbursed using the most recent monthly attendance record or invoice. Providers who are closed due to COVID-19 and are not able to submit their monthly attendance record or invoice shall be reimbursed based on the certified need/certificate. For families certified for a variable schedule (hours change from week to week), providers will be reimbursed based on the maximum authorized hours of care.

If your local Alternative Payment (AP) or Resource and Referral (R&R) agency tell you that they will not reimburse you for:

  • up to 30 days when you are closed due to the Coronavirus, or
  • if you stay open, for children with subsidies who are no longer attending

please show them Management Bulletin 20-04 and contact us at intake@childcarelaw.org to let us know what problems you are having getting paid.

6. I have a licensed family child care home, but I don’t have a contract with the families of the children I care for. Can I charge families if I close? (Last updated 3/24/20)

Having a contract with the families you provide care for is always a good idea. A contract allows all individuals to understand the rules of the child care program, such as what happens when your child care is closed.

If you do not have a contract, you might not be able to charge your families. You will have to rely on your personal relationship with each of your families to determine if you should continue to charge them. You will have to assess their ability to pay if you close your child care and children are not receiving care.

If you have contracts with some of your families and not others, you will want to look at the contracts you do have and review what they say about payment when your child care is closed because of a public health emergency.

You might decide to ask your families to sign a contract now, which states that they must pay while you are closed or pay a fee to hold their child’s space. You have the right to do this, however, you must be mindful that some families might feel this is unfair. If families don’t want to sign your new contact, you will need to have a conversation with your families and try to come to an agreement. Any agreement or contract must be in writing and signed by the family to be enforceable.

7. If a child cannot attend my child care because they are sick from the Coronavirus or at risk of getting the Coronavirus, or if a parent or guardian chooses to keep their child home, can I still charge the family? (Last updated 3/18/20)

For families that do not receive a subsidy, the answer depends on what it says in your contract with your families about a family’s obligation to continue to pay during the time a child is absent from care. Review the terms of the contract signed between you and the family to see what the contract says about (1) paying for days when the child is not in care; (2) the advance notice that is required for termination of the contract by either party; and (3) if there are exceptions to the advance notice requirement.

If a child in your care is receiving a subsidy through the California Department of Education, read question 8.

8. If a child in my care is receiving a child care subsidy, will I continue to get paid when that child is absent because they are sick from the Coronavirus or at risk of getting the Coronavirus, or if the parent or guardian chooses to keep their child home for quarantine? (Last updated 3/23/20)

You will be paid for a child who is receiving a subsidy and has an “excused absence.” The California Department of Education recognizes a child’s absence from care “because of illness, quarantine, illness or quarantine of their parent, family emergency…” as an excused absence which allows family child care providers to be paid. Education Code § 8208(e). There is no maximum number of excused absence days due to illness or quarantine.

If you remain open during this emergency, you will get paid for a child receiving a subsidy, even if that child is no longer attending due to an excused absence, with no limit on the number of days. Whether or not the child(ren) with a subsidy is attending, you will be reimbursed based on the certified need. Management Bulletin 20-04.

If you are remaining open during this emergency, you can submit attendance records without the parent signature if the parent is unavailable to sign due to the Coronavirus. Your contracting agency should meet public health department guidelines by allowing you to submit your attendance or invoice records electronically, with digital signatures, or provide access to a dropbox.

9. I am a self-employed family child care provider. Am I eligible for Disaster Unemployment Assistance benefits if I have temporarily closed my child care home or lost most of my income due to the coronavirus outbreak? (Last updated 3/27/20)

As of March 27th, The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act has passed into law. The CARES Act will allow many self-employed family child care providers to get Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) when they suffer a loss of their business, or a substantial interruption or loss of business activity as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic. DUA is for unemployed individuals who are not eligible for the regular unemployment benefits.

Do I qualify for Disaster Unemployment Assistance?

If you had to close your business, or you have had a major loss of income, or you have an inability to work that is caused by the coronavirus epidemic, you should be eligible to receive Disaster Unemployment Assistance. Examples of qualifying circumstances caused by the coronavirus epidemic should include:

  • You had to close because you or a family member was exposed to the coronavirus and needed to self-quarantine or were sick
  • You had to close your family child care home because most or all of the children in your care are no longer attending due to concerns about the risk of contagion, or in compliance with the March 19, 2020 Governor’s Executive Order requiring all non-essential workers to stay at home until further notice
  • Your family child care home remains open, but as a result of the coronavirus epidemic you only have a few children left in your care

We do not yet have federal or state guidance on how this will be interpreted, and will continue to update this site as we learn more. 

Unfortunately, undocumented workers cannot get Disaster Unemployment Assistance. You must have legal authorization to work in the U.S. (for example, asylees, refugees, DACA recipients, individuals with temporary protected status, lawful permanent residents (even if their green card has expired), and individuals who have been issued an Employment Authorization Document while their application for legal immigration status is pending.

How do I apply for Disaster Unemployment Assistance?

You can apply for Disaster Unemployment Assistance by filing a claim on-line or by phone with the Employment Development Division (EDD).  Here is a link to the online application for benefits. The online application is also available in Spanish.

Here is a fact sheet from EDD with general information about Disaster Unemployment Assistance. EDD is experiencing a large increase in the number of new claims and there are delays in processing claims. 

During this coronavirus epidemic, California has temporarily waived the normal one-week waiting period that you would usually have to wait before being eligible for unemployment benefits. In addition, the usual requirements that you be “able and available for work” and actively searching for work are temporarily suspended.

Click here for more information on Disaster Unemployment Assistance.

Visit the California Employment Development Department’s Coronavirus page to learn more. They also have a helpful FAQ page about Coronavirus.

In order to get Unemployment Insurance or Disability Insurance, either you or your employer had to make contributions in the last 5 to 19 months. It’s possible that you made these contributions at a prior job, or if you should have made those contributions at a prior job, but were misclassified as an independent contractor instead of an employee. Or if you chose to contribute to Unemployment Insurance Elective Coverage.

You might also be eligible for Disability Insurance if you are sick or quarantined or Paid Family Leave if you are caring for a sick or medically quarantined family member. Just like with Unemployment Insurance, you would only qualify for these benefits if you met one of those narrow exceptions listed above. You might also be able to get Disability Insurance if you pay into Disability Insurance Elective Coverage.

Claims can be submitted online through the California Employment Development Department.

If the Employment Development Department decides that I am eligible for benefits, how much money will I get?

If you are eligible for Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA), you will receive DUA payments from the state of California plus an additional $600 per week from the federal government.

California will calculate your DUA the same way that they calculate regular Unemployment Insurance (UI), as a percent of your earnings. The earnings “base period” that they use to calculate your DUA will be your most recently completed tax year. The minimum you would get is half of California’s average unemployment compensation. The California average is approximately $339. So the lowest amount of DUA you would get from California is about $169 per week and the maximum you could get is $450 per week. 

On top of your weekly DUA payment from California, the federal government is also adding $600 per week, for a temporary period of time. 

You can receive up to 26 weeks of unemployment benefits if your job loss is attributable to a disaster that eliminates your job or keeps you from being able to work. The CARES Act adds up to an additional 13 weeks of benefits, bringing the total to a maximum of 39 weeks. Your unemployment benefit amount is based on your most recently completed tax year. While the 2019 tax deadline has been extended, it is important that you submit your 2018 taxes if you have not already done so.  You may want to submit and rely on your 2019 taxes if your annual 2019 income was higher, because that may allow you to collect a larger unemployment benefit.  

 Other ways you might be eligible for unemployment or disability insurance:

Until DUA is approved, there are some narrow exceptions where a self-employed family child care provider might still qualify for one of the employment insurance programs. In California, the Employment Development Department processes claims for Unemployment Insurance, Paid Family Leave, and Disability Insurance. Visit the California Employment Development Department’s Coronavirus page to learn more. They also have a helpful FAQ page about Coronavirus.

In order to get Unemployment Insurance or Disability Insurance, either you or your employer had to make contributions in the last 5 to 19 months. It’s possible that you made these contributions at a prior job, or if you should have made those contributions at a prior job, but were misclassified as an independent contractor instead of an employee. Or, if you chose to contribute to Unemployment Insurance Elective Coverage.

You might also be eligible for Disability Insurance if you are sick or quarantined or Paid Family Leave  if you are caring for a sick or medically quarantined family member. Just like with Unemployment Insurance, you would only qualify for these benefits if you met one of those narrow exceptions listed above. You might also be able to get Disability Insurance if you pay into Disability Insurance Elective Coverage.

10. Do I need to pay my assistant if they need to miss work because they or their family members are sick or contagious? (Last updated 3/23/20)

California paid sick leave: 

Employees, including full-time, part-time, temporary or seasonal workers, in California are entitled to up to three days of paid sick leave per year if they have worked at least 30 days in a year. Employees are eligible to begin using accrued sick leave once they have worked for an employer for 90 days. Employees earn one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours of work.

Check your city’s ordinance/laws to see if employers in your city have a duty to provide for more paid sick leave than described above. And, see below for expanded coverage under new federal emergency legislation.

California Paid Family Leave:

If your assistant is unable to work because they are caring for an ill or quarantined family member with the Coronavirus, they can file a Paid Family Leave claim. Paid Family Leave provides up to six weeks of benefit payments to eligible workers who have a full or partial loss of wages because they need time off work to care for a seriously ill family member or to bond with a new child. Benefit amounts are approximately 60-70% of wages, depending on their income. See below for expanded coverage under new federal emergency legislation.

New Nationwide Options: 

On March 18, Congress passed the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act and Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, as a part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

(A) Emergency Family and Medical Leave:

Emergency Family and Medical Leave lets employees get paid if they are unable to work or telework and need to take time off (1) in order to care for their child, or (2) if their minor child’s school or child care has been closed due to a public health emergency. You need to have been employed for at least 30 calendar days before the first day of leave. Note: Employees who were recently laid off and then rehired are also eligible. You still qualify if: you were laid off on March 1st or later, but you worked for your employer for at least 30 of the last 60 days before you were laid off, and then your employer rehired you, and now you want to take leave.

The first ten days of Emergency Family and Medical Leave can be unpaid. During those days, employees can choose to use their vacation or sick days, but they don’t have to. After the first 10 days, employers will have to pay their employees two-thirds of their regular pay for the number of hours they would usually have been scheduled to work.

This law will go into effect on April 2, 2020 and will expire on December 31, 2020. Regulations will eventually be adopted by the federal Secretary of Labor to clarify some of the details not spelled out in the legislation.

(B) Paid Sick Leave

This legislation entitles employees to paid leave by their employer if they are unable to work (1) because of COVID-19 symptoms, infection, isolation, or quarantine, or (2) in order to care for their child or another individual with Coronavirus related illness, isolation or quarantine, or (3) if their minor child’s school or child care has been closed due to a coronavirus precaution. Full time employees can get 80 hours of paid sick leave. Part time employees can get paid for the average number of hours that they work over a 2-week period. The employer cannot require that the employee first find a replacement employee to cover for them. The paid sick time is available immediately, regardless of how long the employee has worked for the employer. The employer cannot require that the employee first use up other paid leave before using this coronavirus-related paid sick leave. 

Note: An employer who has fewer than 50 employees can seek an exemption from the federal law if paying sick leave would “jeopardize the viability” of their business.

You may find this resource from CLASP helpful.

California Disability Insurance:

If your assistant is unable to work because they have been exposed to the Coronavirus, also called COVID-19, they can also file a Disability Insurance claim. Disability Insurance provides short-term benefit payments to eligible workers who have a full or partial loss of wages due to a non-work-related illness, injury, or pregnancy. Benefit amounts are approximately 60-70% of wages, depending on their income.

For a useful chart depicting benefits for workers impacted by the Coronavirus, please see: https://www.labor.ca.gov/coronavirus2019/#chart.

11. Do I need to pay my assistant if I have to close my child care home? (Last updated 3/18/20)

If you are forced to temporarily close, your assistant(s) may be eligible for Unemployment Assistance. Refer them to this fact sheet/FAQ on the Coronavirus and workers’ rights. The California Employment Development Department page on the Coronavirus describes how they can file an unemployment Insurance claim for reduced work hours or closures. They also have a helpful FAQ page about Coronavirus.

12. What if someone living with me or in my child care tests positive for Coronavirus, or is determined to be contagious? (Last updated 3/18/20)

If you are a licensed provider, you should file an unusual incident report of any epidemic outbreak with Community Care Licensing, and report the incident to the local Department of Public Health. Current California Department of Public Health guidelines covering all child care and preschool settings tell you how to best prevent the spread of the disease, and what to do if you, a family member, or a child attending your child care has been exposed.

13. I am a California tenant or homeowner. Can I be evicted from my home if unable to make rental payments or be foreclosed on if I can’t make mortgage payments-- during the coronavirus pandemic? Can my utilities be shut-off ? (Last updated 3/27/20)

Tenants: On March 27, the Governor issued a new Executive Order with temporary protection for renters Your landlord may not start an eviction proceeding against you for non-payment of any rent owed as of March 27 and no writ to evict you may be enforced while this Order is in effect. 

Your nonpayment must be due to changed financial circumstances and be supported by verifiable documentation of your inability to pay rent for reasons that are coronavirus-related, as spelled out in the Order. During this temporary pause on court evictions, your landlord still has the right to collect rent and you still have an obligation to pay it and give your landlord notice of your inability to pay. 

This Order covers all tenants who rent their homes, including renters who have a family child care home. Right now, this Executive Order lasts until May 31, 2020, but may be extended after May 31.

Mortgages:  Wells Fargo, US Bank, Citi,  JP Morgan Chase and state-charter banks and credit unions have all agreed to waive mortgage payments for 90 days. Bank of America has committed to a 30-day waiver. There is no income requirement for mortgage relief, but there needs to be evidence that the homeowners have been affected by COVID-19—which Governor Newsom has promised will be easier than it was during the 2008 foreclosure crisis.

Utility shut-off protection:  The Public Utilities Commission (also called the PUC) protects against the shut-off of critical utilities—including electricity, gas, water, internet, landlines and cell phones. The PUC recently announced that, retroactive to March 4, utility companies under its jurisdiction will not be allowed to suspend or disconnect service for ratepayers who cannot pay their bills during the virus outbreak. Check here to see if your utility companies are included in the PUC protections.