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New Mexico works to meet child care needs amid COVID-19 outbreak

K-12 schools closed for three weeks
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Monday an additional $3.25 million in humanitarian aid under the statewide public health emergency declared last week.

FARMINGTON – After the announcement of a state of emergency and K-12 schools closing for at least three weeks in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, New Mexico state agencies have created emergency policy changes to assist families with child care needs.

The Early Childhood Education and Care Department and the Children, Youth and Families Department released the temporary policy changes Sunday to help families and communities meet the demand created by a high number of children out of school for an extended period of time.

In a statement, Early Childhood Education and Care Department Secretary Elizabeth Groginsky said, “We recognize that New Mexicans face a range of circumstance and challenges. If you have the flexibility to stay home with your child, we encourage you to do so. If you need child care, we are doing everything in our power to ensure you have access to healthy and safe care.”

One of the policy changes announced would allow family friends and neighbors to register as child care providers and potentially receive assistance funding from the state. The temporary providers would need to complete a background check and a three-hour online CPR, health and safety training. People interested can call (833) 551-0518 for more information.

With first responders and health care providers crucial to the state’s response to the viral outbreak, the Children, Youth and Families Department said it would also issue full-time child care assistance to the families of first responders and health providers.

Monday marked the first day of the state’s mandatory three-week closure of K-12 schools, leaving many students who rely on schools for meals without proper nutrition. The state also announced Sunday it received a U.S. Department of Agriculture waiver to allow schools to provide breakfast and lunch to children younger than 18.

On Monday morning, Lujan Grisham also issued authorizations for $3.25 million in humanitarian aid under the statewide public health emergency she declared last week. Funding for the temporary child care policy changes were included in an allocation of $750,000 for the Children, Youth and Families Department. The Public Education Department also received $750,000 to help the children and families affected by the K-12 public school closures.

In Durango, the school district, which is out on spring break this week, announced it would cancel classes until at least March 25 to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The state of Colorado has yet to issue a statewide school closure notice.

Anyone interested in the temporary emergency child care assistance programs can call New Mexico’s child care resource line at (833) 551-0518.

lweber@durangoherald.com

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