Pennsylvania’s Child Care System in Urgent Need of Stimulus to Prevent Collapse
Survey shows extended economic shut down puts nearly one-third of PA child care providers at risk of closing permanently
HARRISBURG, PA (March 24, 2020) – Principal partners of the Pre-K for PA and Start Strong PA advocacy campaigns called for swift action by PA policymakers to save the state’s child care system. Advocates touted a recent survey by the Pennsylvania Child Care Association showing that of the 605 child care providers responding (serving more than 44,000 children across the Commonwealth), nearly one-third indicated that they would not be able to reopen if the state mandated closure lasts for longer than one month.
“Child care is an ‘essential service’, and without this frontline workforce our state would not be able to effectively respond to this pandemic,” said Diane Barber, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Child Care Association. “What is most startling about the survey results is the frightening reality that when non-essential businesses are able to reopen, child care providers may not. Stimulus funds are urgently needed to stabilize our child care system ensuring that programs survive to play an undeniably critical role in our economic recovery.”
Supporters of Pre-K for PA and Start Strong PA are calling for Governor Wolf and the General Assembly to enact the following emergency appropriations as part of any stimulus package to stabilize Pennsylvania’s child care system:
- Continue to pay child care subsidies and contract payments to Pre-K Counts and Head Start Supplemental Assistance Programs for the duration of the crisis.
- Provide $17 million to compensate for the share of revenues that would otherwise have been collected as copays until child care services are restored to normal.
- Provide $100 million to support the continued financial viability of child care providers that rely in part, or in full, on tuition payments directly from parents.
- Appropriate $50 million to extend Pre-K Counts and Head Start programs through the summer to stem early childhood learning losses for students.
Additionally, advocates are calling on PA policymakers to take action to ensure the sustainability of the child care sector and protect the health and wellbeing of children by:
- Passing legislation to impose an immunity from tort liability associated with claims related to COVID-19 to all Commonwealth certified child care providers that are authorized to continue to operate pursuant to the Governor’s Executive Order / Declaration of Emergency.
- Prohibiting any adjustments to employer unemployment compensation experience ratings associated with any claims paid as a result of child care centers’ compliance with Commonwealth COVID-19 guidance or directives.
- Decreasing the risk of subsequent infection by requiring every child care and other early childhood education program to attend free training on the practices needed to sanitize all spaces in which children and early learning staff are working before programs can be reopened.
“We appreciate that for those providers receiving state child care subsidy, the Governor mandated that those payments will continue through April 30,” said Jen DeBell, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children. “However, we know that for the majority of providers, that funding stream is either not available to them or not enough to sustain them. That’s why we are collectively calling on Pennsylvania lawmakers to take swift action to prevent the collapse of our child care system.”
“The COVID-19 crisis has exposed the fragility of the child care system that many have warned about for years,” said Cara Ciminillo, Executive Director, Trying Together. “Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, working families struggled to find and afford high quality child care. This problem was identified by the Keystone Workforce Command Center as a major barrier to workforce participation. If nearly one-third of Pennsylvania’s current providers close permenantly, this will most certainly jeopardize our economic recovery.”
Pre-K for PA and Start Strong PA represent thousands of early learning providers and supporters across Pennsylvania. From birth to age 5 early learning is happening, and our coalition of advocates is committed to ensuring that families can access it in high-quality, developmentally appropriate settings. For more information visit www.prekforpa.org and www.startstrongpa.org.