Why Child Care Needs Help to Survive COVID-19’s Impact

Submitted by Cindy Lehnhoff, Director of the National Child Care Center, on behalf of and with the permission of Tracy Jost, Child Care Owner/Operator in Maryland

Stories from the field: Child Care Providers Facing Closure without Substantially MoreFederal Government Support

Tracy Jost is the owner of Kids Campus Child Care Center in Calvert County, Maryland.  She has proudly owned and operated the facility for 14 years. Tracy, along with her staff, have worked tirelessly to achieve a rating of 4 in the state Quality Rating Improvement System: Maryland EXCELS. A 4 is considered one of the top ratings awarded to early education and child care programs that are meeting nationally recognized standards and best practices.  Prior to COVID-19, Tracy’s center was at full capacity with 150 children enrolled. When the Governor announced that Maryland’s child care centers could only serve essential personnel, the attendance at Kids Campus immediately dropped to only 35 children and then over time grew to 50 children enrolled.

Of the original 150 children enrolled, 100 were children to non-essential parents, therefore not eligible for care, while others were kept home by their parents to avoid any Covid-19 risk. Several families immediately withdrew while others followed as time went on. The remaining families have been paying a discounted weekly tuition fee meant to reserve a spot for their child when the Governor re-opens child care centers for all children. Tracy understands that parents are fearful and therefore will continue to keep their children at home until they are comfortable and confident that it is safe.

With less children attending and therefore less families paying tuition costs, Tracy’s revenue has dropped substantially.  Fortunately, Kids Campus qualified for the PPP loan/grant that was extended to small businesses under the CARES Act.  This has helped her cover her labor cost and a few other expenses for an 8-week period.  With the funds from the loan running out in a few short weeks, Tracy will struggle like so many other providers with covering the expenses of running a high quality child care center. Unless Congress passes another bill that includes substantial support for licensed child care, Tracy is not sure how long she can stay in business if her enrollment does not increase in the near future.

There are other obstacles that make it difficult for Tracy, other providers in Maryland as well as families to navigate the Covid-19 pandemic:

● In order to meet social distancing guidelines throughout the day, child care providers have to lower their operational capacity to keep children further apart. As a result of this, more qualified staff must be present in the center to ensure that the minimal licensing standard of keeping all children within sight and sound at all times is maintained. Reducing the operational capacity decreases a center’s weekly revenue while having to provide additional staff increases operational costs.

● Middle class working parents spend on average 10-14% of their income for child care. Therefore, they cannot bear the burden of an increase to the cost of care. We know from experience that when child care cost increases, families are often forced to choose cheaper unsafe options which do not include a high-quality early education program like the one offered at Kids Campus Child Care Center.

● Operational cost has also increased to allow for additional cleaning and sanitizing throughout the day.While high quality child care providers have always been extremely mindful and attentive to preventing the spread of illness, the COVID-19 pandemic has required staff to triple their daily cleaning routines which, of course, has increased their expenses.Locating cleaning and sanitation supplies has been exceedingly difficult.

Tracy and many other licensed centers that have remained opened in Maryland are struggling to remain in business due to the impact of Covid-19. It is well-known that prior to COVID-19, child care centers were already operating on thin margins. This is why owners and operators like Tracy cannot afford to stay in business and offer quality early care and education at the highest level if the current situation persists without additional financial support by our Federal Government.  With the money from the CARES Act running out in June, many providers are uncertain about their ability to remain open or as many centers have closed, their ability to reopen their facilities. Knowing this, Congress must act now to SAVE child care so that America’s economy can recover.  Without a solid child care infrastructure in place working parents will not be able to return to work.  An additional $50B dollars is needed to ensure that centers like Tracy’s can remain open and operating safely now and long into the future.   

Thank you for taking the necessary action to SAVE the ESSENTIAL CHILD CARE INFRASTRUCTURE of the United States!

Cindy Lehnhoff

NCCA Director
NECPA Policy Advisor