UC Berkeley study says California childcare programs are on the brink of collapse

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BERKELEY, Calif. (KRON) — “I think with this pandemic many providers are going to close their doors and we’re gonna have a big short on childcare.”

A picture shows Elena Ramirez’s preschool before the pandemic, when she could have 14 children in her care. 

The shutdown order caused her to close up for a month and a half. She’s now back open, providing care for the children of essential workers — but now she’s only allowed to take in six. 

She’s already laid off two of her teachers. Because she’s getting some extra help from the state, and has secured a loan, she thinks she can limp along this way for about a year.

She’s one of the lucky ones.

“For many providers, it’s really hard not only because I did not get any loans or any grants but also because some of them are old and they have health issues so they have to rethink to open their doors to the families or to just completely close out,” Ramirez said.

U.C. Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Child Care Employment surveyed 2,000 child care centers big and small — and found 60% are reporting a loss of income because of low attendance or families not paying, and over 75% have laid off or furloughed workers which will likely affect how many children they can care for.  

There’s also the issue of finding cleaning supplies and PPE. It’s part of the reason that the Felton Institute, which operates four early education centers, is now offering distance learning. They used to serve 430 children a year in their 19 classrooms, their CEO says that number will likely drop to 190 under new guidelines. So we’re gonna have to make hard choices who gets to get served and who doesn’t.

And that could find those parents with jobs to go back to, with no place to put their kids.

Those behind the study says the entire industry needs it’s own form of stimulus to keep it and the economy that depends on it afloat.

“This is as important, if not more important, than particular airline industry,” Marcy Whitebook said. “This is the underling service that we can’t really do without.”

Whitebook calls the $3.5 billion in aide for childcare in the first cares package passed by congress, a drop in the bucket and hopes that a new 50 billion bailout package proposed by Senator Elizabeth Warren will pass to keep this already fragile industry from crumbling. 

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