Critical Issues For Child Care in a Federal Recovery Package
Child Care in Connecticut directly employs over 21,100 and enables the parents of 171,713 children to work. It is a diverse, fragmented and fragile industry. There is no one size fits all way to save the industry during the pandemic. A NAEYC survey of providers indicates that close to half of providers can’t survive a shutdown of more than two weeks and another 16% won’t last more than a month.
Providers of all types are grappling with the question of whether to try to stay open during the pandemic. They are balancing the potential risk of children spreading to the virus to each other and to their teachers and their families, with the dire need for care for the children of essential workers. In Connecticut we estimate that about 2/3’s of child care has closed. Mostly programs have followed the lead of the public schools. In a few communities, mayors have ordered child care centers to close. In some cases, programs that have tried to stay open found it impractical due to most families keeping their children home.
Based on the growing probability that social distancing will be required for some time, extended closures of child care programs appear likely. There are unique circumstances for different types of child care providers that require special attention when crafting a package of supports to make sure we don’t permanently lose a substantial portion of the child care industry. Child care is a labor intensive, low wage, low profit margin business.
Home Child Care Providers – are self-employed micro businesses. These providers can’t fall back on the unemployment system unless there are special provisions made for them. Those who are trying to stay open are very concerned about shortages of cleaning supplies to keep their homes safe. Many home child care providers will need support as out-of-work parents stop paying for care.
Small Non Profit Providers – many of these programs serve low income families and rely on state or federal subsidy funds. Unless those subsidies continue based on enrollment rather than attendance, they can’t retain their staff and pay fixed costs. The exclusion of employers with fewer than 50 employees from the paid family leave provisions will hurt these programs if staff needs to take time to care for ill relatives. At minimum, they will need grants to pay the fixed costs if staff is furloughed.
Large Non Profit Providers (i.e. YMCA & YWCA) The Central Coast YMCA has furloughed its 945 staff. However, they do not use the state’s unemployment system and are instead self-insured. This approach was never intended for a prolonged national shut down and will need a government back stop. Otherwise those furloughed employees will stop getting unemployment checks when the money runs out in a month or two.
For Profit Providers have generally tried to stay open. They are experiencing low attendance and parents de-enrolling their children as parents are laid off. They will need grants to tide them over.
Child Care Doesn’t Have an Army of lobbyists. We Are Counting On You!