Update on School Readiness & VPK Services for parents!
During these trying times, we want you to know that we are here to help your family with childcare needs. Although our building is closed to the public, clients can still apply for school readiness and/or VPK services on our Family Portal . All Coalition team members can still be reached by phone, at 772-595-6363 for Family Services, which covers enrollment, eligibility and childcare referral services, or 772-595-6424 for the general line, or through email, or through our social media platforms.
For more information on COVID-19 and how the State of Florida is handling this virus, visit the  Florida Department of Health  website . You can also visit our Childcare Locator on our website here to see which childcare centers are currently open. Here is the latest update from the state regarding:
Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) Education Program:
If you have not used your VPK certificate for a school year program and are considering a Summer VPK program for your child, please contact the coalition. 
School Readiness (SR) Eligibility Program
  • Effective March 15, 2020 all terminations of School Readiness families’ eligibility have been suspended. Redeterminations of eligibility are extended an additional 60 days. No families shall be removed from the program.​
  • The parent waiting list revalidation notification has been extended by 60 days.​
  • As of April 1, 2020 Providers are no longer collecting parent copayments until further notice.
  • Job search can be used as a purpose for care to establish eligibility and for families applying to the waitlist through August 1, 2020.
  • Parents on the waitlist have 60 calendar days to submit the required documentation through September 30, 2020.
  • The 20 hours per week of work/education requirements for initial eligibility are suspended through August 1, 2020.
The end of Florida’s statewide stay-at-home order is in sight and soon, some businesses that have been shuttered for the past month due to the coronavirus pandemic will slowly start to reopen. Gov. Ron DeSantis made the announcement Wednesday that the executive order would expire come Monday for the majority of the state minus the hardest-hit areas in Southeast Florida. While many retail doors will open, there are rules and stipulations that must be followed. Below is a list of questions and answers, provided by the governor’s office, that fully explain phase one of reopening Florida.

When does the phase one executive order begin and how long does it last? It’ll go into effect on May 4 and remain in place until it’s replaced by a subsequent executive order. DeSantis on Wednesday he couldn’t provide a timeline for entering phase two but said he’s “thinking about weeks, not thinking about months” for each of the three phases.

Is the safer-at-home order still in place? That order was scheduled to expire Friday but has been extending until 12:01 a.m. Monday, which is when the phase one order begins. The new mandate will still require that Floridians limit their movements and whereabouts to the businesses that are open.

Is all of Florida entering phase one? No, not at this time. Technically Executive Order 20-112 was issued for the whole state but the governor is working with the mayors in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties to ensure they have a stricter protocol in place. Those three counties account for 59% of the 33,690 cases statewide as of Thursday.

Does the phase one executive order supersede local law? No. Local government can impose stricter rules if they would like. See what some Central Florida leaders have said they plan to do.

When will we enter phase two? That’s to be determined. It’ll depend on information the governor receives from health authorities. The short answer is that Florida will enter phase two when it’s safe to do so but right now we don’t have a timeline for when that will happen.

Can senior citizens and those with preexisting conditions leave their homes? Yes, just keep movements restricted to going to pharmacies, grocery stores, restaurants and other businesses that are open. Outdoor exercise is also allowed.

Are beaches and parks open? The governor never closed the beaches but many local governments opted to do so. In Central Florida, many of the beaches remain open but only for limited activity such as exercise. If you want to jog, surf or swim, just verify that location is open before you make the trip out there. Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection will announce a phased-in re-opening of state parks.

Can my business reopen? It depends on what kind of business you run. Restaurants can operate at 25% dine-in capacity and retailers can also allow customers in with that 25% occupancy stipulation. Just keep in mind that if your business is allowed to open, you need to have appropriate social distancing and sanitation measures in place.

What businesses need to remain closed? Gyms, barber shops, nail salons, hair salons and other salons with close contact services as well as bars and nightclubs.

If my business is one that is closed, can we still provide delivery of product? Yes. A hair salon owner, for example, could still accept orders via the web or the phone and deliver products to customers. Employees can also continue to work remotely.

For businesses that can open, what are the health guidelines? Groups of 10 or fewer and six feet of space between parties is a must. Business owners are also asked to keep abreast of CDC recommendations.

Are temperature checks and masks required for employees and customers? The governor’s newest executive order does not list masks or temperature check requirements. However, some businesses have put protocols in place. For example, Costco and several airlines are now requiring customers to wear masks.

Will businesses that exceed 25% capacity be fined? Yes, up to $500. Local and state law enforcement agencies will enforce the order and could charge violators with a second-degree misdemeanor.

I want to hang out with my friends and family. Can I? The governor is still saying no on that unless you’re assisting them with something such as providing them with food or medical care.

Can I walk, run and exercise outside? Yes and you could before as well, just stay six feet away from others.

Will churches and other houses of worship be open? They were never closed. Those facilities just need to follow social distancing guidelines.

I know of a business violating the executive order. How do I report it? The governor’s office recommends contacting your local law enforcement agency

https://www.wptv.com/news/state/gov-ron-desantis-issues-stay-at-home-order-for-florida

 

Gov. DeSantis stated childcare services are essential.

First and foremost, we want all of you and your families to be safe and healthy!  We are urging providers to consider remaining open to allow parents that work for essential businesses (like banks, grocery stores, healthcare, first responders and gas stations) to utilize their services.  While following all precautions/guidance from the CDC and our Department of Health, for safety; which includes adequate space for appropriate social distancing and limit of 10 individuals (includes teachers and children) along with not allowing anyone to go into other rooms.  Also for consideration, providers may conduct initial health checks for children entering their facility daily and adhere to a strict illness policy.

Attached is a Q&A from the Office of Early Learning (OEL).  All provisions in the document will be reviewed by OEL every 15 days.  With that being said, some things could change very quickly; but, we anticipate some consistency for potential change to coincide with a full month from the beginning of the month until the last day of the month. DOE OEL QA 3-26-20 – FINALT he Q&A addresses the following that is important for parents:

  • SR & VPK payments for absences and closures, with an emphasis on temporary closures.
    • What does this mean for parents:
      • The ELC will pay providers for ALL absences effective March 1, 2020, even over the ELC limit of 6 (3 unexcused plus up to an additional 3 excused)
      • NO documentation for absences will be required
      • Children will NOT be withdrawn from any program for not attending, including VPK.
  • Eligibility for School Readiness families
    • Eligibility requirements have been suspended as of March 15th.
      • NO families will be terminated from the SR program as of March 15th.  If children were not attending prior to March 1 and the redetermination was March 15th or after, those terminations will stand.
      • If you have been temporarily laid off, have a reduction of hours, lost your job, or had any changes of employment due to COVID-19, that will NOT be grounds for termination from childcare services.
    • Redeterminations
      • We will be working with parents in an effort to complete their redetermination by their original date, so it will not create a back log and extremely large number of redeterminations in the future.
      • In the event you are NOT able to produce required documentation, we WILL extend your redetermination date by an additional 60 days.
        • As far as we are aware at this moment, you will be required to complete redetermination by the extension deadline.
  • School Readiness Parent Copayments
    • This section directly addresses the parent copayment that is determined by the ELC and does NOT include any differential payments that providers may charge.
    • We are anticipating a clearer answer in this section to specifically state “Providers are not to collect SR parent copayments effective April 1 and will be reimbursed for these copayments beginning April 1.”
      • The clarification is from the effective date of April 1, 2020.
      • Parents will NOT be responsible for ELC assessed Parent Copayments due to providers
      • The ELC will be paying providers these fees as of April 1st.
      • If your provider is still looking to collect any differential payment from parents, that will be between the provider and the parent.
        • We encourage parents to discuss your situation with providers, if you are struggling to pay differentials.
  • If you have any questions regarding the items listed above, please call us at 772-595-6424, choose Family Services and the directory will list our Family Services Specialists.  Please pick the specialist that you have most recently worked with.
  • There are other areas listed in the Q&A, if you have any questions regarding those areas not covered here, please contact Deb LaBella, Director of Programs, by email at labellad01@elcslc.org.
  • If your provider is closed and you need care for your child(ren), you can contact our office and request a transfer of care.  Only in the event that your provider is closed, will we NOT require a zero balance receipt.

Providers will be receiving a copy of this email as well. Please watch for emails from us, along with checking on our website at www.elcslc.org, Twitter:  @early_lucie or like and follow our Early Learning Coalition of St. Lucie County Facebook Page.  Since these are our main sources of communication with all of you during these unprecedented times we are trying to get information out in as many outlets as possible.

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