Pennsylvania Capital Star: Childcare providers seek $100M in aid to ride out COVID-19 pandemic
March 24, 2020 by Elizabeth Hardison

Before the COVID-19 pandemic brought much of southeastern Pennsylvania to a standstill, Latonta Godboldt could typically expect to tend to 13 children each day at her home-based daycare center in North Philadelphia.

These days, attendance at Small Wonders Family Child Care has dipped to three students. Godboldt says she can continue paying her staff for now, but she and countless other child care providers wonder what’s in store as Philadelphia residents and suburbanites remain under strict orders to stay at home.

A coalition of advocates on Tuesday asked state lawmakers to authorize more than $100 million in stimulus aid for the state’s ailing childcare sector, which they say could collapse as the COVID pandemic disrupts business and employment across the Commonwealth.

“Our economy is dependent on the childcare sector being up and able to take children,” Donna Cooper, executive director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, said during a conference call with reporters. “If anyone has an expectation of the economy returning to normal without a healthy childcare sector … they are fooling themselves.”

Childcare centers across the state were forced to close their doors starting on March 13, when Gov. Tom Wolf ordered a statewide shutdown of daycare centers and schools to slow the spread of the coronavirus virus that causes COVID-19.

Home-based providers, such as Godboldt, were able to keep operating. Some child care centers secured waivers to stay open, even as enrollments dwindled.

But many centers shut their doors entirely, either to protect the safety of their staff or because they fear being sued if they continue to operate during a statewide emergency.

Childcare providers say their incomes could evaporate as more workers face layoffs and furloughs that leave them unable to pay tuition.

Wolf extended the closure for schools and daycare centers through April 6 on Monday. Advocates say a prolonged shutdown could be disastrous for childcare centers, which have long been plagued by high costs for labor and facilities.

If approved, advocates say a $100 million appropriation from the state’s General Fund would help centers that rely on tuition payments maintain their payroll and overhead costs until the COVID pandemic abates.

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