Colorado Offers Essential Workers Free Child Care Until Mid-May

Megan Verlee/CPR News
Children take a nap at the Rocky Mountain Public Childcare Center in Aurora, Colo.

Essential workers that are exempt from Colorado’s stay-at-home order are eligible to get full tuition credit for child care till May 17. The directive went into effect immediately Monday. 

Michelle Barnes, the executive director of the Department of Human Services, said the idea came when COVID-19 social distancing measures began to shut down child care centers across the state. 

“Right now, we’re expecting essential workers to be working extra hours, to be frontline,” Barnes said. “We want to ensure that the parents have access to affordable child care during this time.” 

The list of essential workers who will be covered includes: 

  • Health Care Operations 
  • Critical Infrastructure 
  • Critical Manufacturing 
  • Critical Retail 
  • Critical Services 
  • News Media 
  • Financial Institutions 
  • Providers of Basic Necessities to Economically Disadvantaged Populations 
  • Construction 
  • Defense
  • Critical Services Necessary to Maintain the Safety, Sanitation and Critical Operations of Residences or Other Critical Businesses 
  • Vendors that Provide Critical Services or Products, Including Logistics and Technology Support, Child Care and Services

Gov. Jared Polis collaborated with early childhood providers, advocacy groups, school districts, Gary Community Investments and the Colorado Department of Human Services to create a system of emergency child care. The Emergency Child Care Collaborative began on March 23, 2020. 

“We know that this global pandemic is putting an unprecedented strain on Colorado’s health care and emergency workers,” Polis said. “More than 80,000 of our emergency workers have children under age 8, and without child care, many of these workers will not be able to perform the jobs that are most crucial to containing the spread of the virus.”

Barnes said she spoke with both child care providers and families who expressed that this was a need.

“Within the state itself and within my department, we have thousands of essential workers who were very clear with us that there was an issue with needing emergency childcare support.” 

Licensed child care providers across Colorado provide all care through the Collaborative. The supply is limited so it is encouraged that parents exhaust all other options before trying to be matched through this service. 

Barnes said that although the end date is May 17, DHS would consider extending it if the need was still present and if it could acquire more funds.

Families interested in being matched with a local child care provider can fill out the form at to immediately begin the matching process.

As of Monday, there are 400 providers that families could potentially be matched with. The Collaborative is specifically looking for providers that are open to school-age children ages 5 to 14.