WASHINGTON, DC – As parents, kids, camps, and coaches prepare to navigate a challenging summer amidst the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, U.S. Senator Jack Reed hailed the allocation of $7.5 million in federal funds to help ensure the health, safety, and well-being of young people during summer programming.

Senator Reed led efforts to create the $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (Public Law No. 116-136) and included a $1.25 billion small state minimum for Rhode Island.  The state is putting this funding to use in a variety of ways, and Governor Gina M. Raimondo recently announced an allocation of $7.5 million in CARES Act funding to help summer camps and youth programs follow COVID-19 health rules and safety guidelines.

“Kids need a chance to get outside and have fun and we need to ensure it is safe for them to do so.  Summer camps and youth sports will be different this year.  They need to be more innovative and take appropriate steps to keep kids as safe as possible.  This federal funding will help promote happy, healthy campers this summer by ensuring summer programs can implement extra health precautions and best practices,” said Senator Reed.

According to the Governor’s office, the federal funds will go to youth organizations offering summer programming and may be used to cover the cost of things like hiring new staff or bringing in a daily cleaning crew.  Interested organizations may visit ReopeningRI.com to learn more about the availability of funding and application process.  The application period is currently open and applications are approved on a rolling basis pending the availability of funds.

Senator Reed says parents are right to be concerned about kids’ safety and he supports the state’s phased approach, which adheres to recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“We want everyone to be safe, smart, and healthy.  Nobody can completely eliminate risk, but smart steps and needed resources can help mitigate it.  Given the current circumstances and the prevalence of this virus and what it can do, it is better to err on the side of caution.  There isn’t a trophy in all of sports -- youth or professional -- that is worth a child’s life or a parent’s or grandparent’s life,” said Reed.

Some camps have been forced to close for this season while others have moved online.  If Rhode Island’s positive health trends continue along the current trajectory, in-person summer camps and programs in Rhode Island will launch on June 29.  The programs must follow state guidelines and health protocols, such as fewer campers in smaller groups, face coverings, screenings, and social distancing measures. 

“Camps and sports play a big role for many kids’ physical and mental health, as well as their social and emotional development.  Not every kid plays sports, but we want every child to get outside and exercise and find opportunities to play, have fun, and develop their skills.  This pandemic limits kids’ freedom to get out and move but we need to ensure there are opportunities for them to safely get outdoors, have fun, and be kids,” said Reed.  “Summer camps provide essential care and supervision for kids while their parents are at work.  Parents should trust their instincts and not hesitate to do what they think is best.  As the resumption of camp and organized youth sports progresses, we want to emphasize the importance of practicing safe social distancing and making informed decisions.” 

The CDC has issued limited guidance for camp administration and local governments on minimum health and safety standards that recommends continued 6-foot social distancing and the prioritization of outdoor activities.  Different camps will have different protocols, but under state rules, they will all adhere to CDC guidelines and Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) requirements.

According to the American Camp Association (ACA), more than 20 million children across the country attend camp each summer.  To help camps safely reopen, the ACA, in partnership with the YMCA, issued the Camp Operations Field Guide for Summer 2020.  Developed with input from Environmental Health & Engineering, Inc., a Boston-based consulting firm specializing in environmental health, the 82-page guidebook offers a blueprint to safely support day and overnight summer camp operations this summer.

“We must monitor this evolving situation, adhere to CDC guidelines, and take proper precautions.  A well-tailored, evidence-based, phased approach is the smartest way forward.  Every good coach has a game plan and the ability to make adjustments and modifications as needed.  That is what we’re seeing with the phased resumption of youth sports and camps,” noted Reed.  “If kids are unable to safely participate in organized, group outdoor activities by the end of summer, then it is difficult to see a path to reopening classrooms in the fall.  So I think everyone will be watching this closely and rooting for a return to play.  We’ve got to take the right steps, mitigate risk, continue with the data-driven, scientific approach, and hopefully we’ll continue to see progress.  But everyone should be prepared to make adjustments if the data and danger warrants it.”