"Staff childcare workers want some type of Health Benefits to be issued and affordable for ALL childcare workers also like State health plan, Teachers Benefits. Childcare workers are needed just as much and often as other workers. People can't go to work without childcare needs. So, WE must open and be here daily no matter what pandemic is going on. WE ARE FRONT LINE WORKERS ALSO!!”
In our recent survey, the Initial Economic Impact of COVID-19 on South Carolina’s Child Care Sector, child care providers in South Carolina shared their experiences and concerns in the wake of COVID-19 and the economic crisis. The findings were startling:
- One-third of centers cannot financially weather a closure of any length of time.
- Nearly half (48 percent) of centers have closed.
- Overall, the sector is serving about one-third (30 percent) of the pre-COVID enrollment.
- The average current and projected short-term losses are greater than $50,000 per provider.
Numbers and figures help to quantify the impact of the crisis, and call for specific action from policymakers, nonprofits, philanthropist and others. But it was also essential in this research to hear and elevate the voices of child care providers. And it is clear they have a lot on their minds, looking at this “word cloud” generated by the open-ended survey responses:
Following the release of the survey, ICS sent a list of resources to respondents in the hopes that we may be able to help them navigate some challenges while policymakers develop broader solutions. We are sharing an updated version of this list to assist providers in any states who may be facing similar challenges.
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) & Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL): Many of you have already applied for PPP, though we heard your frustration at not receiving communication from your lenders. If you are considering applying in the second wave which began on April 27, ICS provided and recorded a webinar specifically for community-based organizations and child care providers on navigating the process. We also discuss the EIDL program – skip to minute 49 if you are interested in the EIDL.
Unemployment Insurance: Several respondents also noted various frustrations with the Unemployment Insurance system, including being unsure how to explain the process to their laid off or furloughed staff, or that staff were having trouble accessing the systems. Each state administers their system separately, and employees should file for UI in the state where they worked. For those who have not used this system before, or are unsure about recent COVID-related changes, we recommend Unemployment Compensation: A Guide for Child Care Stakeholders During the Coronavirus Pandemic. Jump right to pages 4-6 for the latest information.
Child care for essential employees: Many of the respondents to our survey indicated they are continuing to serve children of essential workers. The care and safety of providers and the families they serve is the number one priority at this time, and all centers working with these families must make sure they can prioritize safe care. Providing care to essential employees can be a lifeline, both for families who need the peace of mind of quality care while they work essential jobs and for providers who would continue to receive some revenue during this time.
Many states have introduced plans to pay (fully or in part) for the care of these children. For our providers in South Carolina, child care vouchers (scroll down to “Child Care Vouchers for Essential Employees”) are available through DSS for the children of essential workers – which includes child care workers. This announcement may be useful to share with your networks if your center is in a position to provide care at this time, or if you staff may need care for their children if you are operating.
For providers in other states, the Hunt Institute at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy has compiled a helpful directory of state child care policies related to COVID. To learn about child care provision for essential staff, including how your center can participate, visit this link and check your state in the column “Emergency Child Care Provision” for more information and links. We recommend following up with the state agencies which are overseeing child care licensing in your state to learn more as COVID emergency measures can change quickly.
I want to express ICS’s most sincere gratitude for all of those providers who responded to our survey, and other surveys across the country. Frankly, it was an emotional process reading and reporting on these findings – the care and concern providers have for their staff and families is so clear, and the challenges you are facing are so great. Many of you are struggling with the most difficult financial situations your businesses have ever faced, and we appreciate the time you took to provide thoughtful feedback. It is clear from the responses received that this work is more than a job – it is a calling. We are grateful for all those who are working to meet the needs of communities at this time and are committed to safely providing these essential services when they may reopen. We know you are essential, to the families you serve and to the state’s economy.
We hope these resources can help some providers navigate the current storm; if you have other unanswered questions, please reach out and we will try to connect you with assistance. While providers continue to work at the individual level to maintain the businesses they have built, ICS will continue to work at the systems level on their behalf, to improve the systems in which we all operate. As ICS President, Jamie Moon, wrote in an open letter recently, “One thing is certain: we must support the critical employment infrastructure provided by the early care and education sector in South Carolina and across the nation…ICS strongly recommends an equitable approach that considers the current plight of the childcare sector and the need for a stronger employment infrastructure, while prioritizing the health of our children and workforce. Attending to the needs of our children and working families today will pay dividends for decades to come – and will ensure a brighter future for us all.”