Childcare During a Pandemic

September 11th, 2020

Category: Early Learning

As Delaware begins to go back to school for the fall, its childcare industry is more critical than ever.

Children and families deserve access to high-quality childcare so parents can return to work, and students can have safe and engaging places to thrive. COVID-19 not only battered our economy, but has also closed or severely limited capacity at many childcare centers. While Delaware has relied on Federal CARES funding to support centers and parents, additional funding is still needed.

While congress negotiates an aid package for states, now is the time to advocate for dedicated childcare funding to best support children and families.

Don’t believe us? Read on below to find out what local providers, parents, and teachers say about childcare during a pandemic.

What Delawareans are Saying…  

Providers

Source: The Delaware Association for the Young Children (DEAEYC)  2020 survey on the current state of childcare  

  • Providers are facing decreased enrollment and increased expenses, such as cleaning supplies, facility adjustments, and increased staff to accommodate smaller group sizes and new safety guidelines.
  • Programs are losing tuition due to decreased enrollment and are not receiving aid funding quickly enough to support their financial obligations.
  • 46 percent of providers with closed programs expressed worry that staff will find alternative employment and not return to the field.

Parents

Source: A Rodel survey of over 1,000 parents on COVID-19

  • COVID-19 has significantly changed parents’ childcare arrangements and other parenting duties.
  • A top concern for parents with children ages 0-12 was balancing work and family demands with caring for children.
  • 99 percent of parents reported that the COVID-19 crisis was somewhat or very disruptive.
  • Parents reported needing reliable childcare to keep their jobs and expressed concern that if childcare were not open, children would lack social interaction and be unproductive at home.

Educators

Source: a Delaware Department of Education survey on reopening

  • Lack of childcare was listed as one of the top three challenges outside of the classroom for teachers as a major barrier to effectively working from home.

What National Experts are Saying…  

  • 58 percent of licensed childcare slots (approximately 28,196) in Delaware are at risk of disappearing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to estimates from The Center for American Progress.
    • Prior to COVID-19, there was a ratio of 1.1 children per childcare slot, but post COVID-19 Delaware could have 2.61 children per slot, according to estimates.
  • Childcare is essential for the economy and working families, and recent data from the Center for American Progress shows that 75 percent of mothers of young children participate in the labor force nationally.
  • Even prior to COVID-19 25 percent of all Delaware residents lived in a childcare desert, with higher numbers in low income neighborhoods.
  • Day care services lost about 336,000 jobs nationally in the month of April, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics “Unemployment Situation for April 2020.”
  • Working mothers in states with early COVID-19 closures were 53.2 percent more likely to take leave from their jobs than working mothers in states with later closures, according to the Census Bureau.
    • Of those not working, women aged 25 to 44 are almost three times as likely as men to not be working due to childcare demands
  • 54 percent of parents who sought childcare during COVID-19 said it was difficult to find care within their budget, says a Bipartisan Policy Center survey of over 1,000 parents with children under the age of 5 found.
    • 38 percent of parents with school aged children will seek a childcare provider if their school does not open in the fall

What has Delaware Done with Federal CARES Money?  

In March, the federal government passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a relief package that provided $3.5 billion in discretionary funding for the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) to support the childcare industry.

  • Delaware received $9.8 million in supplemental funds in the CARES Act to serve the children of front-line and essential workers and support providers, according to the National Women’s Law Center Report on Childcare in the Time of COVID-19. The state received additional federal CCDBG funds available through the CARES Act in June but exhausted those funds. Delaware officials reported spending it on:
    • Payments to each of the state’s approximately 1,100 childcare programs based on enrollment
    • Assistance payments to providers who had to close
    • Covering parent copays
    • Purchasing of personal protective equipment
  • Delaware was expected to exhaust its funding by the end of June but found funding through the end of the calendar year. The state needs additional funding to fully support the reopening of the state’s childcare programs
  • Since publication of the report in July, Delaware state officials announced that enhanced reimbursement for providers would continue through September, but no announcement has been made yet about future funding

Advocacy Opportunities and Resources

When legislators returns from recess in September, they will have a short time to act before the end of the month brings important budgetary deadlines.  Negotiations are underway to determine what to include in the next federal coronavirus package. Now is the time to show legislators that childcare and K-12 funding need to be a priority.

  • Rodel joined early childhood groups from across the country to support the Child Care is Essential Act, which has passed in the House but not the Senate.
    • The act would provide $50 billion in appropriations for the Child Care Stabilization Fund to award grants to childcare providers during and after the COVID-19 public health emergency.
    • The act would help stabilize the childcare sector and support providers to safely reopen and operate.
  • The Child Care Stabilization Fund Toolkit contains information on how to advocate to ensure the next federal relief package includes the $50 billion in dedicated relief to help struggling childcare providers. Ways to advocate include:
    • Making impactful phone calls
    • Sending impactful emails
    • Using social media such as Twitter
    • Writing letters to the editor
  • To take immediate action, The Child Care Relief Campaign’s website contains direct links to prepopulated templates for emailing, calling, or tweeting at your representatives

Other Resources

  • The Delaware Readiness Teams COVID-19 page offers resources for families and early learning professionals such as at home learning activities, professional development opportunities, and community resources.
  • Delaware Stars released a guide on Re-opening Child Care Safely, which includes information on financial resources, changes to operating procedures such as reduced group sizes and cleaning, and what to do if someone gets sick.
  • DEAEYC released a COVID-19 resource page, which includes information on reopening childcare safely, links to community resources, and the latest updates from the Governor’s office and the CDC.
  • The State of Delaware’s Childcare page includes information on childcare in Phase-2 of COVID-19, including reopening guidance and information for families.

Author:
Jamie Forrest

jforrest@udel.edu