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The pandemic’s impact on child care in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation estimates that 50% of childcare facilities in the country will not survive the coronavirus pandemic. But now, as parents return to work and students remain home for remote learning, the need for child care is great.

So what happened? Reva Wywadis, Executive Director of Child Care Aware of Eastern Kansas, said it’s a combination of many issues including:

  1. Low enrollment numbers in the early months of the pandemic, as more parents were out of work and staying home with children, greatly reduced income for childcare facilities.
  2. Extra costs to maintain a safe and clean environment for both children and staff; including cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment.
  3. The need to hire additional staff to maintain small class sizes and social distancing now that children are returning to childcare facilities.

“I think what we’re seeing is that many programs are really struggling,” explained Wywadis. “Anything that can be done to support childcare is just so critically important because without child care it will be very difficult to rebuild our workforce.”

The SPARK Task Force was given the responsibility of dispersing the federal CARES Act money to Kansas counties. In the third and final round of the funding, the task force plans to allocate at least $20 million to childcare facilities and programs in the state. This could be used for supplies, PPE, additional staff and helping new programs cover licensing and opening costs.

Child Care Aware of Kansas helps connect families with child care options in the state. Wywadis said even before the pandemic, there were few Kansas child care programs with spots available. She added, now, there is an even great need for more child care options in Kansas.

“For anyone who is thinking about it…absolutely, the need is great,” said Wywadis.

Child Care Aware can help start the process of opening a child care facility, click here for more information.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation also has information on the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on the child care industry across the country.

“This is not just an issue for parents to be concerned about. This is really a bigger issue that just a family’s needs. This is about the future of our economy,” added Wywadis. “Without strong business we can’t rebuild our economy and childcare plays such a critical part in making sure that people can reenter the workforce and stay in the workforce and be productive workers because they’ve got stable childcare that they can depend on day after day.”

The SPARK Task Force will meet on Wednesday to finalize their recommendations for the remaining $290 million of CARES Act funding. From there, the recommendations will go on to the State Finance Council on Thursday for final approval.

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