by Robyn Lightcap, executive director of Learn to Earn Dayton
If you are not an essential worker who needs child care, you may not know that nearly 70 child care pandemic centers across Montgomery County are up and running. They’re ensuring that an estimated 800 doctors, nurses, grocery clerks, warehouse workers, nursing home staff and first-responders can be on the job.
Dozens upon dozens of child care professionals are taking incredible personal risk to care for babies, toddlers and school-age children — and to help them keep developing and learning even as their normal routines have been turned upside down. (Incidentally, these employees don’t have the security of having certified personal protective equipment even as small children can’t possibly be expected to practice social distancing.) Despite the all-important work that they’re doing, many child care programs are struggling to meet payroll. Under new and necessary state regulations, they must have higher teacher-child ratios, and they are severely limited in the number of children they can have in a classroom or defined space. These changes are a double-whammy, significantly raising the cost of doing business.
Meanwhile, their staff are so low-paid that, if you account for supplemental federal unemployment benefits, many child care workers would earn more by being laid-off.
Let’s also not forget the child care professionals who have been laid off. Many of them are still waiting to hear if and when they’ll receive unemployment benefits. They desperately miss their children and families, who may be difficult to reach because they lack Internet access. Furthermore, these workers don’t know if they’ll have a job when the pandemic ends. Like so many other low-margin operations, child care programs that have closed will invariably struggle to start back up.
In spite of all this heartache, fear and uncertainty, child care workers are carrying on.
Whether they’re working at a pandemic center or laid off, many teachers are doing their best to support children and families. Preschool Promise has been advocating fiercely for these critical professionals and the families they serve.
■ Thanks to the COVID-19 Response Fund of Greater Dayton (led by The Dayton Foundation and United Way of Greater Dayton), PNC Grow Up Great, and The Frank M. Tait Foundation, we’re providing scholarships to families of essential workers who earn too much to get state child care financial assistance.
■ We’re linking child care programs to experts on Small Business Administration loans, unemployment benefits, the new federal CARES Act and more.
■We’re advocating for child care providers at the state level, explaining how regulations are playing out on the ground and why the state must do more to financially support pandemic centers and programs that have closed.
■We’re using social media to provide tips to child care staff about the need to take care of their physical and mental well-being.
■We are immensely grateful to our state, county and local leaders who are managing the COVID-19 crisis. We also owe a huge debt of gratitude to those helping essential workers stay in their jobs by loving, protecting and, yes, still teaching children.