RICHMOND, Va. -- As some parents head back to the office, finding child care can cause quite a headache. Luckily, assistance is available for eligible families, even those who are currently unemployed.
Jennifer Williams has been soaking up moments of peace and quiet in her Henrico home.
"I was like, I can hear the clock ticking? There's no Elmo in the background? I can actually get stuff done," she said.
Coronavirus closed down her son's daycare and turned her home office into a permanent workspace.
"10 months. 10 long, long months my child and I worked from home together," Williams said. "Thankfully, I have a very understanding boss who got it and probably could see the stress on my face, but it was definitely not easy."
As William continues to work virtually, her son is enrolled in child care once again. However, the transition came with challenges.
She said finding a program that has reopened, is adequately staffed, meets her standards and falls within her budget was tough.
"You're going to search for the best child care facility for your child, and sometimes the best may not be in your price range," Williams explained. "That can be heartbreaking to some parents."
That's why Williams was thrilled to learn about the extension of an expanded state program that will help other families cover the costs of child care.
"It can actually change your life," she said. "It can be life-changing."
A part of the Child Care Subsidy Program designed to help parents get back to work was set to expire in July but will now run through the end of the year.
"Parents will no longer be responsible for any co-payments, if they have one, through the end of December of this year," said Patricia Koon who works with the Richmond non-profit ChildSavers. "Parents can be eligible for assistance even if they're looking for a job."
Families with at least one child not yet in kindergarten with an income up to 85 percent of the state median income qualify for twelve months of financial assistance.
As someone familiar with the struggles of work-family balance, Williams encourages parents to take advantage of available support.
"Stay strong," Williams said. "Give yourself grace, and just use all the resources you possibly have because we all need them."
To find out if you're eligible for the program, you can visit your local Department of Social Services or visit the state's online portal.