COVID-19 Update: OCDEL and DHS Issue Further Guidance

Dear early care and education supporters,

We wanted to share the information issued by OCDEL and DHS since Friday evening with you. Please know that this message includes the answers to a number of the questions we’ve received from all of you this week. We thank the OCDEL leadership for providing further information to address these concerns and requests.

Please continue to send your questions, thoughts and experiences with us. We will keep providing answers when we have them, lift up questions for our state government leaders when we don’t and advocate for you as legislative and administrative action is considered to help Pennsylvanians through this crisis. As we receive new information we’ll share it!

Stay healthy and safe!
The PennAEYC Team 

As a reminder, Gov. Wolf’s order for all “non-life sustaining businesses” in Pennsylvania to close their physical locations to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 does not apply to:
  • child care centers operating with an approved waiver,
  • child care centers that submitted a waiver,
  • group child care homes operating in a residence and
  • family child care homes.

PennAEYC received many questions this week and the most common two are:
Can a provider operate while their waiver is under review?  Yes, the organization can operate under the assumption of approval.

Do group child care homes operating in a residence and family child care homes have to continue operating? The decision to remain open or not is at the discretion of the individual operator. This flexibility is due to the smaller number of children served, their knowledge of enrolled families and ability to assess families’ health as they are dropping off and picking up children.

In addition, OCDEL issued the following updated guidance on the waiver process today:

Licensed Providers Operating Outside Philadelphia: Complete the Exemption of Directive to Temporary Close form available   here Completed waiver forms should be emailed to OCDEL at   RA-PWDRACERT@PA.GOV . Child care certification staff will respond to requests as quickly as possible. Email subject line should read, “Waiver Request – (Insert County Name).” Providers who have already submitted applications should not resubmit or send additional requests. If you have questions you can call OCDEL at 1-877-4-PA-KIDS or contact your Child Care Certification Representative.

Licensed Providers Operating in Philadelphia:  The City of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Department of Health have developed a separate additional process, requirements, and approval system for facilities operating in Philadelphia. Child care centers and group child care homes operating outside of a residence seeking to remain open in Philadelphia must complete  both  the OCDEL waiver request available   here   and  the Philadelphia waiver form available   here . Future closure instructions may be made to child care operators in Philadelphia and only those providers with  both  an OCDEL and Mayor’s office wavier will be permitted to remain open.

OCDEL is asking that if you are continuing to care for children, please follow the guidance provided by the   Pennsylvania Department of Health  (PA DOH) to ensure the safety for the children, their families, staff, and yourself. This weblink has a variety of resources and OCDEL encourages you to continue to monitor it for updated recommendations and educational materials on signs, symptoms and preventive measures. If you suspect a case of COVID-19, please report it to DOH and OCDEL.

In addition, OCDEL is asking you to please share critical updates with the families you continue to serve. Using a call list or email alert could be useful at this time when operational status could change with little notice. Additionally, the spread of COVID-19 may reach a point where Exemption of Directive to Temporarily Close waivers are rescinded, or you may make the decision to temporarily close. Please encourage your enrolled families to begin planning for child care services in the event that your services are no longer available.

If you are currently operating with an Exemption of Directive to Temporarily Close waiver and are willing to accept new children of essential employees OCDEL is asking that you please contact your Early Learning Resource Center (ELRC). Once you’ve notified your ELRC, they will be able to direct families to your facility. To contact your ELRC, please visit .

OCDEL reminds the field that certified child care providers must maintain provider agreements between them and families served. The provider agreement is between the child care and the family, and the PA Department of Human Services (DHS) and OCDEL do not have authority over the contents of this agreement. OCDEL only has authority over copays for families that qualify for subsidized child care. Most provider agreements include payment language in the event of a closure. Typically, this is related to weather or other short-term events. In this mandated closure period, and in the event it could potentially extend longer, families could be economically challenged an unable to fulfill the terms of their provider agreement.  If your child care facility is closed, OCDEL strongly recommends providers do not collect ongoing fees for this extended closure duration. Please communicate your decision regarding the provider agreement to your enrolled families, including your process to suspend or terminate the agreement.

DHS issues a communication to all facilities certified by the department, including child care programs. Here are the key points:
  • From March 16-30, DHS will not be conducting any annual licensing inspections. Any inspections scheduled for this timeframe will be completed as soon as possible once normal operations resume.
  • Licensing staff will continue to conduct on-site investigations for any serious incident or complaint during this time period.
  • If a facility currently has a provisional license or its revoked license is under appeal, an on-site visit may occur as necessary during this time.
  • Currently, DHS is not able to send out annual license renewals. As such, if during this time you would have received a renewed license packet then your existing license is still valid.

Shared Work - For child care programs that are seeking ways to support their staff, Shared Work may be a solution. Shared-Work is an alternative to layoffs that may be used when the work available to employees decreases. Instead of the employer laying off some employees, all employees share the available work by working reduced hours and collecting a portion of their unemployment compensation benefits. To receive approval for a Shared-Work plan, an employer must certify that the plan is in lieu of layoffs that would involve at least 10 percent of the employees in the affected unit and would result in an equivalent reduction in work hours.   Get more information on Shared-Work .

Governor Wolf’s request to the US Small Business Administration to implement a disaster declaration to provide assistance in the form of   Economic Injury Disaster Loans   for businesses and eligible non-profits was submitted March 17, 2020. Stay tuned on developments as the application process will be provided once the request is granted.

Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority (PIDA) : T he PIDA provides low-interest loans and lines of credit for eligible businesses that commit to creating and retaining full-time jobs. The fact sheet specifically states that child care is eligible.

Previous OCDEL Announcements and Information
Provisional Hire Waiver Application
OCDEL asks that if you plan to submit a provisional hire waiver please do so by sending an email to the RA account   RA-PWDRACERT@PA.GOV  and not through postal mail or fax as Commonwealth employees who work in Dauphin County and the Capitol Complex will not be working in the office beginning March 16, 2020 and extending for a period of 14 days.

*OCDEL has noted that documents will be updated and re-released on a recurring basis as new information becomes available. 

Key Resources
We encourage you to continue to consult these resources for updates on COVID-19, information on staying healthy, and updates on the situation in Pennsylvania.

We also encourage you to visit  for helpful resources that you can use with families and staff to reduce the level of anxiety, communicate what is known to be most appropriate health, hygiene and safety practices, as well as interim guidance for child care businesses.