All early education and child care centers in Massachusetts must close in five days, and the state will instead open emergency child care programs with priority access set aside for workers “critical” to fighting the coronavirus outbreak, Gov. Charlie Baker said Wednesday.
Emergency personnel, medical professionals and others on the front line of the response to the pandemic will be placed at the top of the list to get child care coverage from the state-run centers. Officials will also prioritize vulnerable children and will work to make space for employees who do not hold critical roles but cannot get time off from work.
Existing child care operations must close by Monday, March 23, and Baker said providers impacted by the mandatory shutdowns will receive their regular subsidies to ensure they can reopen at the end of the state of emergency. Under two public health orders issued Wednesday, the state will relax administrative requirements to allow physician assistants to work on more health care needs, including COVID-19, and allow pharmacists to administer some medications to lessen the burden on nurses.
The administration is also planning relief for small businesses, especially those in the restaurant and hospitality industries, by postponing sales, meals and room occupancy tax due dates until June 20 for those who paid less than $150,000 in those taxes.