Senator Anthony Williams and Representative Joanna McClinton Tour KenCrest West Early Learning Center 

Child Care Providers Struggle to Remain Open as the Workforce in Southeast PA Returns to Work

PHILADELPHIA, PA: (October 6, 2020) – Start Strong PA and Pre-K for PA Campaign partner First Up hosted a virtual classroom tour at KenCrest West Early Learning Center in Philadelphia today describing the challenges COVID-19 has caused the child care industry.  Senator Anthony Williams and Representative Joanna McClinton both participated in the tour and discussion.

“KenCrest has been in operation for over 115 years, providing early education for over 50 years. We operate STAR 3 and 4 quality level centers serving families in seven Philadelphia neighborhoods.” Marian Baldini, President and CEO, KenCrest. “Our situation is significantly challenging because we are operating at 75% enrollment in our infant and toddler classrooms, 60% in our Pre-K Counts and Head Start classrooms and our school age enrollment has been reduced by 60%.”

“In addition, KenCrest has many new protocols and practices based on what we call the “three M’s” – Managing the number of contacts; Minimizing contact intensity and Maximizing mitigation.” Melanie Brennan, Executive Director of Early Learning, KenCrest. “These new protocols have exponentially increased our costs.  As one example, we have now hired “safety ambassadors” who spend the entire day cleaning classrooms, materials, playgrounds, bathrooms, etc.”

Baldini and Brennan offered a glimpse into the early learning center describing both visually and verbally how providers support our children, families, businesses, and are a critical component to our economic recovery. The child care industry in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania immediately needs substantially more funding so that as the state reopens, they can stay open and our workforce can return to work.

In a study on COVID-19’s impact on Pennsylvania’s child care sector, Penn State’s Director of Institute of State and Regional Affairs reports an estimated $325 million in new costs and lost revenues for PA providers since the economic shutdown.

“The financial impact, not only for PA child care providers but for the businesses that employ the families those child care providers serve will certainly result in more closures if additional funds do not materialize quickly. With this very real risk that providers across Pennsylvania will close, our state will not have the workforce to be able to effectively recover from this pandemic,” said Carol Austin, Executive Director of First Up, who hosted the tour.

In the wake of COVID-related closures, the Pre-K for PA and Start Strong PA campaigns — representing tens of thousands of Pennsylvania families — have illustrated the urgent need for relief, as Pennsylvania’s child care providers have incurred devastating losses over the past 6+ months. Stabilizing the Commonwealth’s child care and early learning system is a necessary strategy supporting our overall economic recovery.

The Start Strong PA and Pre-K for PA campaigns represent thousands of early learning providers and supporters across Pennsylvania. For more information visit www.startstrongpa.org and www.prekforpa.org.

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