COVID-19 Local Government Early Childhood Education and Care payment program - guidelines

This page describes the objectives, approach and expectations for the COVID-19 Local Government Early Childhood Education and Care payment program.

Note: The Department is working with sector representatives to finalise program implementation, including program guidelines. Guidelines may change as implementation arrangements are finalised.

Program overview

Time-limited payments will be made to NSW Local Governments for eligible early childhood education and care services to support their continued operation and viability through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Funding is complementary to the Australian Government’s Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) Relief Package. Program requirements may be altered in response to any adjustments to the Australian Government’s ECEC Relief Package.

Payments are available under this program for the period of 6 April to 19 July. From 20 July 2020 local government run services will have access to the same financial relief as all other Australian Government Child Care Subsidy (CCS) approved services.

Service eligibility criteria

Payments will be made to eligible centre-based early childhood education and care services and Out of Scope services (excluding in home care) operated by Local Government where these services are in receipt of funding through the Australian Government’s ECEC Relief Package.

Payments will also be provided for eligible Family Day Care (FDC) support employees who are employed by Local Government. FDC educators are expected to be able to access the JobKeeper payment and are not eligible for funding through this program.

Community preschools and mobile preschools operated by Local Government will not receive funding through this program. Instead, Community and Mobile preschools are eligible to receive funding through the COVID-19 free preschool funding program for community and mobile preschools. Community and Mobile preschools will continue to receive Start Strong Funding or payments through Mobile Preschool Contracts.

Funding available

The Australian Government is providing funding to eligible services through the ECEC Relief Package. The NSW Government will match funding for eligible services at a maximum of 50% of payments made by the Australian Government for the session of care in the fortnight preceding 2 March 2020 (i.e. Monday 17 February 2020 through to 28 February 2020).

In the first instance, payments will be processed for the period 6 April to 3 July 2020. Further payments will be processed for the period 4 July to 19 July 2020 to align with the end of JobKeeper payments for Child Care Subsidy (CCS) approved services.

Increased service-level payments within the period 6 April to 19 July 2020, including Exceptional Circumstances Supplementary Payments, will not be matched.

In the event that there are broader changes to the ECEC Relief Package, adjustments may be made to the guidelines and funding approach. For instance, any increase in the rate of support provided under the ECEC Relief Package may result in a proportional reduction in the rate of funding provided by the state.

If payments under the ECEC Relief Package are reduced or suspended to a service, such as where a service opts out of the ECEC Relief Package, this may also impact payments made by the State.

Local Councils will receive a flat rate of $750 per week for the period 6 April 2020 to 19 July 2020 for FDC support employees employed by Local Government. This may assist with consequences of ineligibility under the Australian Government JobKeeper package.

FDC educators are expected to be able to access the JobKeeper package and are not eligible for funding through this program.

The number of FDC employees for each Council has been determined from data collected from Local Government and provided to the Department. The NSW Family Day Care Association identified and surveyed a total of 36 Family Day Care services in NSW that are run by local councils, ineligible for JobKeeper payments for their staff. Only those identified services will receive funding. Increases to this allocation will not be considered for the initial 13 week period.

Funding conditions

Services must comply with the following conditions during the entire funding period:

  • Remain open and provide services unless closed on public health advice, for other health and safety reasons or where directed to close by the Regulatory Authority
  • Not charge fees, including out of pocket or gap fees
  • Retain staff
  • Prioritise access for essential workers, vulnerable and disadvantaged children and those currently enrolled
  • Comply with all other provider obligations, including the National Quality Framework and other relevant conditions of approval under Family Assistance Law.
  • Take additional enrolments where they have capacity.

The Australian Government has set out conditions of funding in the ECEC Relief Package Conditions. These conditions continue to apply to the Commonwealth funding and are unaffected by this NSW Government arrangement.

Payments

Payments will be made to Local Government providers as a lump sum for eligible early child education and care services from June 2020 for the period 6 April to 3 July 2020.

Further payments will be made to Local Government providers as a lump sum for eligible early child education and care services from July 2020 for the period 4 July to 19 July 2020 to align with the end of JobKeeper payments for CCS approved services and the commencement of the transition package.

Lump sum payments for the period will be made to Approved Providers, with information provided separately on service level payment amounts.

Payments for the period 6 April to 19 July 2020 will be calculated in line with arrangements under the ECEC Relief Package. In the event that there are adjustments to the ECEC Relief Package, funding adjustments may be advised by the Department to reflect this.

Spending rules

The activities funded under the COVID-19 Local Government Early Childhood Education and Care payment program must commence during the 2019-20 financial year, and all funds must be expended by 31 December 2020.

Services in receipt of the COVID-19 Local Government Early Childhood Education and Care payment are required to use this funding for initiatives that support the ongoing provision and sustainability of the service including staff wages and other operating costs and not charge a fee for the provision of children’s education and care.

Funding agreement and acquittal

Local Government providers must have accepted the Early Childhood Education Funding Terms and Conditions for 2019-20 in the Early Childhood Contract Management System (ECCMS) to receive payment.

Acquittal of funds will be required following the completion of the 2020 calendar year.

Local Government will be required to confirm that they would like to receive funding through SmartyGrants. On confirmation, a Funding Agreement, comprising these Program Guidelines and the Terms and Conditions will be established between the Local Government provider and the Department.

Contact details

To speak to someone about the COVID-19 Local Government Early Childhood Education and Care payment program, please contact the department’s Early Childhood Education Directorate.

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