On March 25, 2020, Australia's Federal Government passed legislative amendments to Family Assistance Law that will help families and early childhood education and care services manage the impact of COVID-19. The changes you need to be aware of are as follows:
- all families will be allocated an additional 20 days of allowable absences to use in the 2019-2020 financial year
- if additional absences are required for reasons related to COVID-19, medical evidence will not be required. This provision is effective until 31 December 2020
- services will not be required to recover gap fees between now and 31 December 2020 if they are instructed to close on public health direction. A legislative requirement is in place that providers must not increase fees during this period. It's also important to note that the requirement to cover gap fees still exists if a service closes voluntarily.
Any child absences as a result of COVID-19 should be submitted with the absence reason 'Local emergency – unable to attend'.
Voluntary Service Closure
If a service decides to close, and it has not been directed to do so by public health advice, subsection 8(4)(b) of the Child Care Subsidy Minister’s Rules 2017 provides that there is no entitlement to Child Care Subsidy for any fees charged while the service remains closed.
In this instance, therefore, as child care cannot be offered, families should not be charged fees.
The Community Child Care Fund (CCCF) Special Circumstances Grant Opportunity
The CCCF Special Circumstances Grant Opportunity is designed to support continuity of child care, in particular in disadvantaged or vulnerable communities, where a service is at risk of closure due to an unforeseen event or circumstance, such as COVID-19.
To access information on financial assistance, eligibility and timing of this assistance visit business.gov.au or call 13 28 46. Information on other Australian Government grants and programs that you may be eligible for is also available.
In addition, My Business Health provides access to tools, templates and tips to manage mental health and business health to help small businesses find the services they need to face challenges and identify opportunities to grow their business.
- If you're not charging families for a defined period, you must delete bookings off the Master Roll
- Consider pausing payments for the centre so that no direct debits are generated. You can find information about this process here
- Keep families updated with admin posts. Admin posts are an effective way to ensure updates and key information gets to parents.