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Early care, childcare providers risk closing due to pandemic stressors

Concern over the future of daycares amid pandemic
Posted at 5:56 AM, Aug 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-05 06:56:02-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — According to a new survey conducted by the Buffett Early Childhood Institute, many of Nebraska’s early care and education providers are under financial stress and need more support to stay in business. In addition to other stressors, if the COVID-19 pandemic continues or worsens, Nebraska could lose many of its licensed child care providers unless financial assistance is provided according to the survey.

The Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska today released initial findings from a statewide survey that examined how more than 1,000 licensed family home-based and center-based child care providers are impacted by COVID-19. The survey looked at how financial support is accessed, how providers are coping and what providers still need to provide early care and education.

The institute says these findings show an urgent need among a workforce that are deemed essential and still operate in an environment that poses health risks and disrupts revenue stability in an industry already operating at poverty-level wages.

A report from the Nebraska Early Childhood Workforce Commission released earlier this year before the pandemic, showed that Nebraska’s early care and education workforce is a profession already "chronically undervalued and underpaid." Money, health and personal stressors reported from and earlier survey conducted in March 2020 continue and are increasing.

“Professional providers are experiencing profound economic effects of the pandemic, and they will need assistance to continue to provide the backbone early care and education essential for Nebraska’s economy,” said the survey’s co-directors, Kate Gallagher, director of research and evaluation at the Buffett Institute, and Alexandra Daro, research specialist at the Buffett Institute. “Many providers reported experiencing physical, cognitive, and emotional stress over the last few months, yet they remain resilient.”

Key findings reflecting the impact of COVID-19 since its onset include:

Financial Assistance

  • One in 3 respondents applied for and received assistance from the federal CARES Act.
  • Two in 3 received financial assistance of $1,000 each from private donors, which they used for food and cleaning supplies, rent/mortgage, and staff salaries.

Economic Impact

  • One in 4 providers has seen their income reduced by over 50%.
  • Almost all providers have experienced decreased enrollment, with greater enrollment reductions for center-based providers.
  • Three in 5 providers report being enrolled in the newly established Nebraska Child Care Referral Network, matching families with open, licensed child care.

Health and Emotional Impact

  • In the event of illness resulting from COVID-19, less than 1 in 4 providers has paid sick leave.
  • Most providers are experiencing symptoms of stress, such as changes in sleep, difficulty concentrating, social isolation, and anxiety about the future.

Current and Future Needs

  • The majority of providers (51%) reported that without financial assistance they will likely close if the pandemic continues or worsens.
  • Most providers (87%) would apply for financial assistance, if offered. Less than 1% say they would not seek additional financial assistance.
  • The majority of providers (59%) reported using the temporary child care subsidy rule allowing providers to bill when enrolled children are absent.

In the survey, many providers indicated that they may retire or leave the industry. A few reported already receiving notices of eviction and mortgage default.

"The report concludes that in the context of the pandemic and beyond, Nebraska’s early care and education providers need ongoing, substantive financial assistance; access to affordable essential supplies; continued child care subsidy allowances; awareness of and access to the child care referral network to match families needing care with programs with open slots; paid sick leave; and access to counseling and other services to alleviate stress and support well-being."

The Nebraska COVID-19 Early Care and Education Provider Survey II and highlights from The Nebraska COVID-19 Early Care and Education Provider Survey conducted in March 2020 are available at buffettinstitute.nebraska.edu/covid-19-resources.