Kids Win Missouri is calling on Congress to invest an additional $50 Billion dollars to stabilize the Child Care Industry.
The organization releasing a new report this week that details the challenges child care providers are facing from the impact of COVID 19.
Officials say the key takeaways are that programs throughout the state remain at risk due to financial struggles and they have issues affording the costly requirements for child safety.
Advocates believe Congress will begin discussions on this issue in the next round of funding.
New Report: Child Care Facilities Struggle to Survive with COVID-19 Challenges
Advocates call for quick, substantial investment to support families and providers
June 30, 2020 – On Tuesday, Kids Win Missouri, a children’s policy and advocacy coalition, released a new report detailing the challenges child care providers face from the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization joined national efforts calling for Congress to invest an additional $50 billion to stabilize the child care industry.
“Child care providers have been hit by the pandemic in a very unique way,” said Brian Schmidt, Executive Director of Kids Win Missouri. “The child care system has always operated on razor-thin margins and we are now asking them to serve on the frontlines, care for the children of essential workers, completely overhaul their operations to accommodate new requirements, and to do so while losing income.”
From April to June, Kids Win Missouri hosted virtual sessions using Zoom and met with and surveyed more than 100 child care providers from throughout the state. They hosted regional sessions for Kansas City, St. Louis, Mid-Missouri, Joplin, St. Joseph and Springfield. Additionally, multiple sessions were held which included providers from across the state and a few sessions were dedicated to specific types of providers, including Head Start programs and afterschool programs.
Key takeaways from the report concluded that many programs throughout the state are still at risk of financial insolvency, current payment structures do not provide the needed flexibility to address immediate needs and long-term planning, and there are noted inequities in how programs are experiencing the pandemic.
“We talked to such a diverse group of providers throughout the state – it’s clear that they are all feeling the impacts of this crisis,” said Casey Hanson, Director of Outreach and Engagement for Kids Win Missouri, “But there are certain programs that are really at risk right now, and unfortunately, it is those programs that serve the highest percentage of low income children and families and those families and communities most impacted by COVID-19, particularly in our Black and brown communities.”
On a Report Release call on Tuesday, Kids Win Missouri invited providers from throughout the state to share their perspectives about their challenges as providers and their concerns about long-term sustainability. Cortaiga Collins, Owner of Good Shepherd Infant and Toddler Center in St. Louis, discussed a concern of enhanced payments running out just as her program is getting back up and running.
“We’ve taken on extreme added costs to meet the challenges of the time and are still operating at reduced capacity to accommodate health and safety guidelines. 99% of the children I serve are on subsidy, so as we revert back to being paid on attendance in July, the numbers just don’t add up. I will be losing money every day that I’m open,” Collins said.
Other providers echoed Collins’ concerns about the added costs to operation and where to make up those additional funds to support their programs. Stoney Hays, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of the Ozarks in Branson, highlighted the difficult position many non-profit programs are in as they try to cover increasing costs.
“We are always working to blend our funding and access as many funding streams as possible to take the burden off of the families that we serve, including our own fundraising,” Hays said. “Most of our fundraising is completely on hold, yet we are adding additional costs every day to ensure we’re meeting health and safety guidelines and adjusting operations to better serve our families, including adding virtual programming and food distribution.”
Other providers noted the impact COVID-19 has had on their ability to continue to deliver quality programming and to meet the needs of children and families.
“Because we are so laser-focused right now on health and safety and making ends meet as we try to implement all of these new guidelines, there is some fear that quality could suffer as programs look to cut costs to make their budgets work,” Mary Esselman, CEO of Operation Breakthrough in Kansas City. “We have to remember that all of this work and investment is for our children, and we have to center that as we push for more funding.”
The release of Kids Win’s report kicks off a federal advocacy effort, joining national allies in calling for Congress to make a $50 billion investment and create a Child Care Stabilization Fund to support programs across the nation. According to the report, Missouri would receive almost $1 billion to invest in child care through flexible grants. Programs could use the funds to cover increased costs in equipment, PPE, sanitation and cleaning supplies, fixed costs, like rent, mortgage and utilities, salaries and benefits, training and professional development, resources to support mental health for children and staff, other costs associated with meeting the current needs of the industry.
“A number of national, bipartisan policy groups have arrived at this $50 billion number as what it will take to stabilize the industry, and many actually think it will take more,” said Craig Stevenson, Director of Policy and Advocacy for Kids Win Missouri. “The bottom-line is – child care is the backbone of our state’s economy, and if we want to get parents back to work, we need to invest quickly and substantially in our vital child care workforce and industry.”
Advocates insist time is of the essence. As of June 30, the Department of Social Services will end the enhanced payments that have been supporting providers that serve parents receiving support from the Child Care Development Block Grant program grapple with diminished attendance from March through June. DSS has also distributed most of the one time grant funds that went to stabilize programs providing care through the pandemic. As many programs remain closed or operate at lower capacity, Robin Phillips fears providers will begin shuttering before they get a chance to fully reopen.
“Our data shows us that prior to the pandemic about half of Missouri’s families lived in child care deserts. Due to COVID-19 and the associated shutdowns, that number has increased by 50% and we now have 95 of Missouri’s 115 counties considered a child care desert,” Phillips said. “If more programs are forced into permanent closure, we are really putting our children, families, and economy at risk.”
Advocates expect that Congress will convene after the July 4th recess to begin debating the next round of federal relief funding. To read Kids Win Missouri’s full report and more advocacy efforts, visit their Child Care Relief website here.