Child Care in Crisis: COVID-19 Pandemic Threatens Nation’s Child Care Providers
America’s child care professionals serve a vitally important role throughout public health and economic emergencies. They help parents stay at work when schools close, hospitals remain fully staffed and our communities stay safe and healthy. However, child care providers already operate on very low margins and are urgently in need of federal, state and local support to avoid permanent closure due to impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on their businesses. Support is also essential for those care providers who choose to stay open or re-open to deliver high-quality, safe care for the children of essential personnel (medical, first responders, health care, long-term care, public safety).
A NAEYC survey conducted this week highlights that a majority of child care programs are currently at high risk for permanent closure nationwide. In their March 12-16 survey of more than 6,000 child care providers nationwide, 30 percent say they would not survive a closure of more than two weeks without substantial public investment allowing them to compensate staff, pay rent, mortgage or other fixed costs. Some 17 percent of respondents would not survive any length of time without support, 16 percent say they would not survive longer than a month and 25 percent do not know how long they could close and still be able to re-open without support. Only about 11 percent of care providers surveyed said they were confident they could survive a closure of indeterminate length without public support. In less than a month and with no public investment, it’s likely that well over half of the nation’s child care providers would be forced to permanently close.
Immediate and sustained public investment will help the child care industry survive this crisis. This week, the Colorado Children’s Campaign signed onto a letter to Gov. Polis asking for the following strategies to support the child care industry in Colorado:
- Provide flexible, new funding so that providers can stay afloat.
- Protect the health of the children in care and the educators that work with them, especially as demand for care increases.
- Permanently shift to pay providers based on enrollment, not attendance
- Waive copays for parents.
- Expand eligibility for subsidies for any professional whose work is essential to the response to the outbreak.
- Increase pay and other protections and benefits for those providing emergency care.
- Intentionally include center and family care in actions Colorado takes to stem the economic fallout from the pandemic.
- Adopt flexibility in timelines and expectations for state-managed programs.
- Communicate clearly and frequently on the array of questions care providers are asking.
Advocacy is urgently needed to make sure dedicated support for child care is included in federal, state and local COVID-19 responses and that funding flows to providers easily and immediately.
For more information and to take action, please read action alerts from the First Five Years Fund or Child Care Aware of America. You can also listen to the newest episode of our podcast, The West Steps, to learn more.