(The Center Square) – Tennessee will provide millions of dollars in more funding for day care and those who have lost their job because of COVID-19, Gov. Bill Lee announced Tuesday.
Within the next week, Tennessee will distribute $10 million in grants to child care services to help keep up with the greater need for child care amid school closings. The state also will guarantee that facilities receiving performance-based subsidies from the state will continue even if their businesses decline temporarily because of the virus. Tennessee also will loosen regulations that limit the number of children a day care can take in and temporarily will halt state inspections.
The governor encouraged child care facilities to follow guidelines issued by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention whenever possible to practice good hygiene and to keep children away from each other or in small groups when they congregate.
Lee said many people will need emergency assistance if they lose their job. He will loosen the qualifications for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits and unemployment benefits so that those who lose their jobs because of coronavirus will be more easily able to receive assistance.
Under the new rules, a person who is temporarily suspended from his job will be able to receive unemployment benefits, and the governor is working to remove work search requirements for unemployment eligibility. The state also suspended wait times for unemployment benefits so that people who lose their job can get immediate assistance.
Because COVID-19 will put a strain on local governments, Lee also announced he will propose $200 million in grants to local governments in his state budget proposal, which is double the amount in his earlier proposal. He said local governments often know better how to address problems in their community.
The governor also announced that many remote coronavirus testing sites are up and running and will grow every day.
Lee said that Tennessee residents can help by ordering take-out instead of dining in, donating blood, volunteering with their church to help those impacted by the spread of the virus, praying for those hurt by the virus and praying for public officials who have to make decisions on how to stop the spread of the virus.
“It’s up to individual Tennesseans to mitigate the spread of this disease,” Lee said. “It is the little things that will make this happen. It is covering your mouth and washing your hands and staying home when you’re sick and not going into places where there are crowds of people and staying in your home whenever you can. It is making the personal sacrifices that will save lives in Tennessee and will lessen the economic impact that COVID-19 will have on every one of us and on all of our neighbors across this state.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, the Tennessee Department of Health reported 73 positive COVID-19 cases.
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus. The disease has caused at least 100 deaths in the U.S. COVID-19 symptoms appear within two to 14 days after exposure and include fever, cough, runny nose and difficulty breathing.
Most people who have it develop only mild symptoms. But some people, usually the elderly and those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal.
Lee has declared a state of emergency. He has requested all public schools shut down through the end of the month.