House Majority Whip Donna Oberlander and Clarion County District Attorney Drew Welsh Tour Keystone Smiles Child Learning Center

Child Care Providers Struggle to Remain Open as Clarion County Workforce Returns to Work

KNOX, PA: (October 6, 2020) – Start Strong PA and Pre-K for PA Campaign partner the Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children hosted a virtual classroom tour at Keystone Smiles Child Learning Center in Knox, PA today describing the challenges COVID-19 has caused the child care industry.  House Majority Whip Donna Oberlander and Clarion County District Attorney, Drew Welsh both participated in the tour and discussion.

“Keystone Smiles has been in operation since 1994. Four years ago, we reached a STAR 4, the highest level of quality, and now our community is at risk of losing those services. We are in an alarming situation because we are operating at 50% enrollment and uncertain how long we will be able to sustain, based on our current revenue stream,” said Joyce Fosdick, Executive Director, Keystone Smiles Community Learning Center.

“In order to meet CDC guidelines, we are not only operating with less revenue, but we have increased expenses. New protocols such as increased cleaning and social distancing have exponentially increased our costs. There is no doubt that we need more funding to help us get through this,” said Monica Weeter, Keystone Smiles Child Care Director.

Fosdick and Weeter 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 Clarion County 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 crisis is real,” said Kimberly Early, Public Policy and Advocacy Director, Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children, who hosted the tour. “And this crisis not only impacts the child care industry but the families that need child care to return to work and the businesses that need the workforce in order to reopen fully. Without child care, there is no economic recovery.”

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.