A local nonprofit is helping those on the front lines of Houston’s COVID-19 response look after their little loved ones.
Heights-based Collaborative for Children, in a partnership with the Houston Endowment, Gulf Coast Workforce Board, City of Houston and Harris County, has launched an online tool to help first responders and other essential workers find childcare. The program also will help those parents cover the cost of childcare as the region copes with the spread of COVID-19, the upper-respiratory disease caused by the new strain of coronavirus.
By completing an online registration form at FindChildCareNow.org, essential workers with children age 12 and younger will be referred to up to three available childcare centers. They also will be notified within two business days whether they are eligible for financial assistance.
“We as a community are indebted to essential workers who are making a huge sacrifice,” Melanie Johnson, president of CEO of Collaborative for Children, said in a news release. “We believe it is imperative that we sustain quality early learning for Houston-area young children even during this crisis.”
Essential workers are defined as those working in essential industries while the city and county are under a “stay-at-home, work safe” order through April 30. Among those necessary industries are the healthcare, government, transportation and energy professions as well as businesses related to food and agriculture, critical manufacturing, news media and financial services.
For a complete list of businesses considered essential by the state of Texas, visit https://www.cisa.gov/identifying-critical-infrastructure-during-covid-19.
The program, which according to Johnson is being funded by the Houston Endowment and Gulf Coast Workforce Board, aims to provide assistance to those who need child care, those who need child care and financial assistance, and those who already have child care but need financial assistance.
“First responders, health-care workers, grocery store clerks and other essential workers show up for us every day,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said. “This is how we can show up for them.”
Johnson said the FindChildCareNow.org database, which her nonprofit created in 2000, includes roughly 4,000 childcare centers in the 13-county Houston region. She said many of those centers are home-based.
Johnson also said about 24 percent of the region’s childcare centers have closed during the COVID-19 pandemic because of a decrease in clients. So the program that aims to help the area’s essential workforce, she said, also will help those in the childcare business.
Johnson said Collaborative for Children, located at 1111 N Loop W, also provides coaching to childcare centers in an attempt to strengthen learning opportunities.
“This is really helping the full spectrum of childcare,” Johnson said. “People can go to work, children will have access to more childcare centers when this passes, and it’s also helping the child be school-ready.”