KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the YMCA of East Tennessee announced free childcare services for school-aged children of essential workers. Their facilities have been turned into emergency and temporary care centers.
The Boys and Girls Club of the Tennessee Valley is also helping care for children. Both organizations are able to do so through a partnership with the state through the Tennessee Department of Human Services.
The new program provides childcare for children of essential workers through June 15, at no cost to the workers.
"There are grocery store stockers, doctors, and it really runs the gamut of all types of people who need care," said Bekah Grace with YMCA of East Tennessee. "We had so many people in our community who are needed at work, just to keep our community functioning."
Grace said the YMCA can only take 220 children due to social distancing. Kids will be separated into groups of eight due to limitations on how many they can fit into areas safely.
"Every group has a dedicated counselor and cleaner who is sanitizing and cleaning toys behind those kids," said said.
Improvements were also made to facilities, with new systems to sanitize the air and humidifiers to blow out additional sanitizers.
Families have been emotional in response to the announcement.
"They've been in tears with us on the phone, saying they're on their wits-end and were about to have to quit their job," said Grace.
She said they understand the need for childcare is going to grow and they are working on the possibility of being able to do more when the time comes. She said they are continuing to hire and train staff, while they secure facilities against coronavirus.
Children can be registered for YMCA childcare online.
There are also 32 licensed child care agencies in Knox County who are open and able to accept children of essential workers. You can find those here.