HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Every industry has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and that includes childcare centers. Many are closed, and not collecting state subsidies or tuition from parents.
So advocates are asking state lawmakers to include childcare in any potential stimulus package, allowing them to stay afloat through the crisis.
There are more than 7,000 childcare programs statewide, which includes childcare centers and childcare at private homes.
Advocates are asking for emergency appropriations now to help prevent losses later.
“This is all about really supporting this industry through the crisis so that it’s here for families when they go back to work,” said Jen DeBell, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children. “We need to make sure that when this is all over and families need to get back to work, the childcare system is ready for them.”
DeBell, working with Pre-K for PA Start Strong PA, has a primary mission: make sure COVID-19 doesn’t wipe out childcare.
“We know that if closures continue for about a month, a third of the childcare system is likely to shut down,” DeBell said.
She wants lawmakers to take action, to prevent a potential collapse.
“We’re asking for about 17 million [dollars] to cover the cost of co-payments that childcare providers are no longer collecting from parents,” DeBell said.
That $17 million would go specifically to programs that receive state subsidies, which Gov. Wolf has said the state will continue to pay, as it has for years, until at least April 30 (advocates are asking for those subsidies to be paid for as long as the crisis lasts, and not to end at a random date).
DeBell wants the state to continue paying those subsidy rates as well as cover the estimated $17 million in lost co-payments, which account for about 14% of a provider’s expenses, according to DeBell.
“If we can provide that co-payment amount to a provider, it might help them hold on to another staff person and be able to pay them through this crisis,” she said.
In addition to legislation requiring proper facility cleaning and training post-crisis, advocates want another $100 million set aside for private-pay facilities, where parents pay tuition out of pocket.
“About 75% of the childcare system is paid out of the parents’ pockets, not out of the state government,” DeBell said. “We wanna make sure that funding continues to flow so that childcare centers and home-based childcare can continue to pay their employees.”
Advocates also want legal protection for any center that opens up its doors to start serving children of essential workers. They feel immunity from liability will allow more centers to expand their services now without fear of being sued if a child comes down with the virus.