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Reporting on the state of education in your community and across the country.

Pre4Cle: Without Federal Aid, Half Ohio's Child Care Providers Could Close

Pre4Cle's "Build Back Better" Plan is aimed at helping Ohio's child care industry financially survive the pandemic. [Pre4Cle]
Kids in the Pre4Cle 2019 annual report

Pre4Cle, the program aimed at expanding high-quality preschool for Cleveland children, has a list of recommendations to help Ohio’s child care providers weather the deep impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of its “Build Back Better” plan, Pre4Cle is urging state leaders to request $50 billion dollars in the next federal relief bill for child care providers nationwide. Roughly $1 billion of that would go to Ohio, to help prevent the state’s child care providers from shutting their doors for good, said Katie Kelly, Pre4Cle executive director.

“If those emergency dollars do not come through, we are looking at up to 45 percent of child care centers in Ohio facing permanent closure,” said Kelly. “That would mean about 160,000 child care seats that would also be lost permanently. That would be a tremendous blow to working families and to children who need that support, especially now that they're missing out on a lot of early learning opportunities during the crisis.”

Gov. Mike DeWine ordered day care centers across the state to close in the spring.  They were given the green light to re-open in June, but with extremely reduced capacity to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Providers are also having to adhere to coronavirus-related health and safety regulations.  

Kelly said she is particularly concerned about child care sites serving children who receive state-funded child care support, which operate “very close to the margin or even below the margin.”  

There are also a lot of teachers afraid to return to child care centers because of their own health and safety concerns, she added.

“We have a lot of older teachers in the early education workforce who may have preexisting conditions of their own,” said Kelly. “And we also have teachers who need to care for their own children who have lost their child care arrangements. We also have teachers who, quite frankly, are making more on unemployment than they do when the average wage in Cuyahoga County is $11 dollars an hour for a bachelor's degree child care teacher.” 

Kelly points to other industries that are getting financial support to “get back on their feet."

“We need to acknowledge that child care is the backbone of our economy,” said Kelly. “If there are no there are no workers to come back and work in those industries, it's not going to do us a lot of good. We cannot fund the rest of the economy to come back to life and then not fund the engine that powers the economy to work.”

Pre4Cle is also urging state leaders to provide COVID-19 testing for staff and organize a centralized purchase of PPE and sanitation supplies, to ease the burden for individual centers.

The “Build Back Better" plan also includes long-term recommendations to aid the child care industry, such as higher wages for teachers and staff and making child care more accessible for families by increasing funding assitance eligibility to 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

Jenny Hamel is the host of the “Sound of Ideas.”