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Find COVID-19 Information and Resources

Child Care

This page contains resources for both parents and child care providers related to services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read on for more information that may fit your needs, including answers to frequently asked questions.

Child Care Services plans, implements, and coordinates activities and programs to ensure quality, and the health and safety of children in licensed care.  Child Care Services includes Child and Adult Care Licensing, Child Care Payment Assistance (Smart Steps and the Child Care Certificate Program), Child Care Assessment and other partner programs.

Child Care Payment Assistance Program Extended to December 31, 2020

The COVID-19 Pandemic Child Care Payment Assistance program is designed to help support essential workers so they can stay on the job during the COVID-19 emergency.  Through payment assistance and a network of temporary care locations, parents who work in specific occupations can access child care at no cost, during the COVID-19 pandemic state of emergency until December 31, 2020. This Child Care Payment Assistance Program makes payments directly to the child care provider.  Families can access this benefit at child care programs who are licensed by the Department of Human Services or regulated by the Department of Education and are participating in the Child Care Certificate Program.  The Department of Human Services will facilitate participation for providers not currently in the program. 

To be eligible for the program, parents must be employees of a healthcare entity, law enforcement, first responders (EMS, Fire Departments, etc.), corrections officers, military, activated national guard, human and social services workers, postal workers, transportation employees, restaurant workers or grocery workers. The Tennessee Department of Human Services has expanded support for workers who are serving their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Click here for an expanded list of eligible employee categories.

Note: Existing applicants who fit into one of the expanded categories do not need to apply again, even if they were previously denied or their application is still in process.  TDHS is reviewing and reevaluating those previously submitted applications under the expanded employment categories.

PLEASE NOTE: If you have already submitted an application for COVID-19 Pandemic Child Care Assistance, and have received a “no information found” message when calling the Child Care Hotline, do not submit a new application. Instead, contact DHS Customer Service at for an update on your application.

After enrollment in the program, TDHS will make arrangements to pay for child care at the TDHS licensed program where the child is served.  

TDHS is partnering with the YMCA and the Boys & Girls Clubs in Tennessee to establish free child care for school-aged children.  Through this partnership, the YMCA and Boys and Girls Clubs will establish a network of temporary/emergency child care locations across the state. Eligible workers with school aged children who need care will be able to register at these locations and access care at no charge during the COVID-19 state of emergency.

More Resources for Parents During COVID-19

DHS wants to support parents who are employed in essential services and need child care.  Many licensed child care providers across Tennessee remain open and have the capacity to care for children of essential workers.  You may click on the button below for a directory to see what licensed child care providers are able to serve children in your community.  The information is organized by county. See the FAQ for details on adjustments made to services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Who is eligible?

  • Parents applying for the Smart Steps program whose income is below the 85th percentile of State Median Income who have children six (6) weeks to five (5) years old and who work or go to school, or both, for 30 hours or more a week.
  • High school or middle school mothers who stay in school who participate in the Teen Parent program.
  • Parents in the Families First program who need child care to complete the work activities in their personal responsibility plan.
  • Parents whose Families First case has closed can receive transitional child care assistance for 18 months after their Families First case closes IF each parent works 30 hours or more a week.
  • Non-parental guardians in the Families First program who need child care for a related child IF the guardian does 30 or more hours of work, training, or education a week.

If you are applying for child care payment assistant through Families First, you will not use the above application but will apply through the Families First Program by clicking here.

Resources for Existing Licensed Child Care Providers

Now, as always, child care providers play a critical role in their communities, particularly for parents who work in the health care industry or other essential roles. Each child care provider must make the decision whether to be open or closed, based on their unique situation and the needs in their community.

Click here for guidance on reopening or maintaining operations at your child care agency.

Grant Opportunities

The Tennessee Department of Human Services is partnering with The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee to make $18 million in new assistance available to help licensed childcare agencies that were impacted by the recent COVID-19 emergency and the March 3 tornado disaster.

These grants are available to support licensed child care agencies with eligible expenditures including but not limited to:

  • Lost Income resulting from closing due to the disaster/emergency. Grant awards will be based on the itemized lost operating income for the period of closure.
  • Response and Recovery Operations Costs that occur as a result of the disaster/emergency such as cleaning, utility repair, inspections, or substitute staffing and, for agencies remaining open, support for operating expenses impacted by factors such as declining attendance and family needs.
  • Equipment, Materials and Supplies that were lost or compromised as a result of the disaster/emergency such as area rugs, soft toys like stuffed animals, books, curriculum, learning tools and displays, damaged cabinets and shelving, supplies, and playground surfacing and equipment.
  • Consultants and Coaches that are needed specifically related to disaster/emergency impacts such as helping children, caregivers, or staff through recovery, grief, anxiety, stress, or trauma.

The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee will be administering the grants in collaboration with TDHS.  Licensed childcare agencies are encouraged to learn about grant opportunities and to apply online by visiting

The Child Care Services Team provides daily updates and guidance to licensed providers. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are there specific COVID-19 recommendations for child care providers I should be aware of during this time?

Yes, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) offers recommendations for child care providers coping with COVID-19. In selecting care for your child, you should consider if the provider is conscious and compliant with these recommendations. Below is a brief summary of the CDC’s recommendations and a link to the comprehensive list. A full list of recommendations can be viewed when you Click Here. We routinely provide updates and guidance to licensed and emergency child care providers across the state. Updates can be found by clicking here.

2. Is there a directory for finding child care providers during COVID-19?

Yes, families looking for child care services during this time can Click Here to located available caregivers.

3. Can families still apply for the Child Care Payment Assistance Programs like Smart Steps?

Yes, qualifying parents can apply online to receive childcare payment assistance.  For information about qualifications or to apply online Click Here.

4. How can I submit a new application or verification for child care assistance?

You may apply for child care payment assistance or submit verifications online Click Here.

5. How can I make an appointment to speak with a DHS representative regarding my child care payment assistance case?

To speak with a DHS representative about your case, contact your local DHS office. Click Here for contact information.  

6. How can families renew their child care certificate or make case changes?

We have extended eligibility timeframes for three months for all families who are currently enrolled in the Child Care Certificate Program and have expiring certificates for the period of March through May. For example, if your twelve-month eligibility period ended March 31, 2020, your eligibility has been extended until June 30, 2020. For those expiring in April, eligibility has been extended through July. For those expiring in May, eligibility has been extended through August.