COVID-19, News

Child care advocates press governor to close child care centers, provide emergency relief

The North Carolina Early Education Coalition, NC Child and the North Carolina Association for the Education of Young Children are calling on Gov. Roy Cooper and NC Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen to order all child care centers closed and put emergency relief into place, effective immediately.

Here’s more from the coalition’s press release:

“Child care plays a critical role in the immediate response to this crisis and in the coming recovery.Right now, we are asking programs to make excruciating decisions that affect their business, their employees, and the families they serve,” said Michele Rivest, director of the NC Early Education Coalition. “Social distancing is not possible or even safe when caring for young children and babies. We need to act now to ensure that child care programs and their employees get the supports they need to stay healthy and safe both during and after this crisis.”

“More than a fifth of early childhood teachers have no health insurance whatsoever, and yet we are asking them to risk their own health and safety as front-line emergency responders in a national health crisis,” said Michelle Hughes, executive director of NC Child. “The workers in child care centers are overwhelmingly women of color earning very low wages. We need health coverage, emergency pay, and paid leave for every child care worker now.”
NC DHHS has provided guidance to child care centers who decide to remain open and asked them to fill out an application by March 30thto be able to serve as emergency child care operators. Thousands of private child care centers in the state have already closed, but many are remaining open because they serve the families of health care workers and other essential personnel. DHHS has also put an emergency hotline into place to help families find urgent child care. While these steps are important, they do not go nearly far enough, say child care advocates.
“There is panic in every family and employee,” said Melissa Mathis, Director of Footsteps Childcare Center in Hickory. “Families are concerned about how they will work without child care if their business is not closed. Staff worry how will we get paid if we have to close. We live paycheck to paycheck because no one wants to pay child care workers what their true value is.

We’re in a pandemic and everyone is now relying on centers to stay open during this crisis. I feel we need just as much help financially during this crisis as any other business.”

Data from a survey by the National Association for the Education of Young Children indicates that for without emergency funding,a temporary closure will be a permanent one without emergency funding for many child care centers. Approximately one third of programs in North Carolina reported that they won’t survive a closure of more than two weeks without financial assistance.

 

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