I am writing today on behalf of Area Preschool Advocates regarding the state of our child care businesses as we navigate through the COVID-19 crisis.

Our job is to take care of North Dakota’s littlest learners. Child care is a vital resource for families in North Dakota, and we need help making sure we can come back from this.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children conducted a survey last week of child care providers and the effects of COVID-19 on their business.

Thirty percent of providers say they would not survive a closure of more than two weeks without significant public investment that would allow themto compensate and retain staff, pay rent, and cover fixed costs.

Seventeen percent said they wouldn’t survive a closure of any amount of time.

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Only 11% of programs are confident they would be able to reopen after a closure without any support. Imagine only 11% of our child care programs in North Dakota being able to survive to see the other side of this pandemic and how many families are going to be left without child care.

The entire landscape of business in North Dakota will suffer if families cannot go back to work. Child care is not like the state’s K-12 system; we do not have access to funds provided to public schools via the waiver system to keep paying staff and be able to reopen.

Consider these solutions:

  • Alongside actions taken by the federal government to increase access to paid leave and unemployment insurance, ensure that all child care centers have access to unemployment compensation for all staff who work in center-based child care.
  • Invest additional state dollars into child care and ensure subsidy is modified to increase eligibility and move from attendance-based payments to enrollment-based.
  • Automatically enroll all programs in mortgage forbearance, provide rent deferrals, and provide support for utility and insurance payments for three to six months.
  • Allow programs enrolled in the states Quality Rating system to qualify for zero interest loans so programs can pay costs upfront.
  • Do not eliminate or suspend licensing rules, or set up new, unmonitored emergency child care programs for health care employees and first responders. This will compromise the health and safety of North Dakota’s children. Instead, use providers that are currently operating to fill this need.
  • Implement a strong outreach and communication plan, so child care program know and are aware of their options.
  • Include at least two child care providers, center-based and home-based in advisory groups for emergency management agencies in order to provide input on how best to respond to changing circumstances and environments.

In closing, child care providers need your help. We are uncertain about our future and if we will be able to reopen our doors after the COVID-19 crisis is over. We are hoping that with help, we will be able to weather this storm so that when this is over, North Dakota’s workforce will have reliable child care centers to return to.