Shaheen: Child care services 'critical' to recovery from pandemic

December 11, 2020

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, told New Hampshire child care service providers Friday afternoon that to help jumpstart an economy reeling from the effects of COVID-19, the availability of safe child care services will be critical. 

"And if we're going to get our economy moving again, if we're going to be able to put people back to work, we’ve got to ensure that they have a safe place for their children," she said.

Shaheen virtually met with representatives of statewide child care providers and services to listen to their needs and their struggles operating in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic as well as to outline the potential federal emergency relief drafted by Shaheen and other lawmakers.

Along with Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-NH and 48 members of Congress, Shaheen introduced a $908 billion COVID-19 relief bill on Dec. 1 along with a bipartisan group of Senators.

The bill’s framework, parts of which would expire in April, includes $10 billion for child care providers nationwide.

Anne Grassie, family services coordinator of the Rochester Child Care Center, said with lower enrollment, she and her team are losing $40,000 per month just by staying open.

"It’s getting to the scary point. I think after the holidays (that) a lot more tough decisions are going to have to be made about balancing that you aren’t getting all of your kids back," she said.

She said the Rochester Child Care Center experienced two exposures to COVID-19 not within the center but from community spread, likening the ever-changing threat of viral exposure to being in quicksand everyday.

Grassie, who also sits on the Rochester School Board, has observed families in the school district juggle the responsibilities of their kids’ virtual learning duties, saying a parental presence at home creates less need for toddlers and younger children to attend programs like those of the Rochester Child Care Center. "It’s like balancing on one foot and throwing 10 balls in the air and trying to keep them all up," she said.

Referencing Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA, and her Child Care is Essential Act proposal from May, one which would have provided $50 billion to child care providers across the county, Shaheen said the relief bill and its focus on child care aid is a lower compromise than she had hoped to introduce before Congress.

"Again, it’s not a package that I would have written myself. It’s a compromise, but it includes some critical pieces that are going to be really important to families," she said.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) surveyed thousands of child care providers nationwide between Nov. 13 and Nov. 29, compiling research showing that 56% of child care providers are losing money each day they stay open.

The NAEYC received 54 responses from New Hampshire child care service programs, 91% of which were from child care providers and the remaining 9% coming from family child care homes.

The data concluded "66% of respondents from child care center and family child care homes said they are currently losing money by remaining open, even as they are desperately trying to stay open for the children and families they serve."

The survey found "74% of respondents reported putting supplies or other items on their personal credit card or dipping into their personal savings accounts, including 80% of child care centers."

In addition, it said "85% of respondents are paying additional costs for cleaning supplies; 57% are paying additional costs for PPE, and 79% are paying additional costs for staff/personnel, including 83% of child care centers."

Grassie expressed her gratitude for Sen. Shaheen’s commitment to providing relief for new child care providers in the state and country. Looking ahead, she said, there will need to be more people focused on providing similar services.

"It’s going to take a tremendous amount of people to support those kids and our after-school programs are going to need a lot more support than they had," she said. "Which brings us to the reality that child care in this country is a public good, and it needs to be recognized and subsidized."


By:  Ian Lenahan
Source: Portsmouth Herald