Millions of families across the country count on childcare providers to allow them to work while at the same time ensuring their child receives high-quality and developmentally appropriate care. In all regions of the United States, cities are working to stabilize small businesses in their community but may not have thought about the critical sector that allows workers to be present in their jobs.
Across the United States, there are more than 19.8 million children under the age of 4. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, cities across the country were supporting their early childhood workforce and implementing policies and practices to raise the standards of this essential business infrastructure.
When the country was initially hit with COVID-19 and the ensuing stay at home orders, some childcare providers heeded their community’s call for action and provided critical services for essential workers. However, many of these small businesses closed as they adhered to their local stay–in–place orders. Like any sector, COVID–19 has changed the landscape of childcare — from the formal center-based providers to the small businesses that provide high-quality care in their homes. Some cities, recognizing this shift, are engaging with childcare providers to better understand their needs, and working with local partners to stabilize and build a better provider network for the future.
Below are some steps to consider for cities that see the importance of supporting the early learning community.
Start by engaging childcare providers to confirm their financial needs.
Cities in all regions have been working to assist the small businesses in their community that didn’t access the Paycheck Protection Program. In some areas, the childcare sector was not specifically thought of. Many of these small business childcare providers are in family childcare settings, operated out of their homes and are predominantly owned and operated by women, in particular women of color. African American-owned businesses are particularly likely to be one-person firms that may lack connections to mainstream financial services for their business and often use their own checking and credit cards to manage their business finances. With limited business credit, they run the risk of not having the necessary collateral to secure a loan. In partnership with a local financial institution such as a community development financial institution (CDFI) the city could consider creating a line of credit program for the childcare community. Additionally, where possible a forgivable loan would be an attractive option tied to outcome measures over the loan term.
In Philadelphia, the William Penn Foundation and Vanguard Foundation’s Strong Start for Kids Program funded the creation of the Philadelphia Emergency Fund for Stabilization of Early Education. This fund is administered by the Reinvestment Fund, a national CDFI, and is using a data–driven approach to investments in their childcare community. To date, the fund has distributed more than $3.7 million to preserve 21,482 of Philadelphia’s licensed childcare seats for those 0-5 years old.
Support the operational needs of these small businesses.
Childcare providers need more than just dollars to meet the needs of cities’ youngest residents and future workforce. They also need sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) for their staff, access to food, facilities modifications to meet health regulations, and timely guidance regarding these new regulations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidance for childcare facilities and some states have issued their own regarding reopening. Cities can share these materials with providers as soon as possible to make sure that they are meeting the regulations on health and safety. Where possible offer instruction and training remotely to capture more providers and to answer their questions quickly.
Help address the social and emotional needs of childcare providers and children in your community.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has deeply affected every aspect of the cities and those living within their community. Along with access to basic needs and safety regulations, the wellbeing of this workforce is critical in ensuring high-quality learning experiences for children. In Jacksonville, for example, the city has partnered with a local trauma-informed care service to support providers during this pandemic. By offering access to mental health networks, cities recognize the importance of ensuring the wellbeing of this essential workforce and the families they serve.
Use the bully pulpit to make sure the community knows what is happening to childcare businesses.
Cities should add information about the childcare sector in their community such as who is still operating, hours of operation, children they serve, etc. to their COVID resource pages and share this information through social media, via social media influencers, targeted neighborhood ambassadors and via talking points in council or mayoral actions. Additionally, cities should share this information with the larger business community through their local chambers of commerce to ensure their workforce is aware of the availability of childcare.
As America moves to reopen, cities are at the frontline providing resources and coordination to vital supports that workers need like childcare. Cities need to engage and support this sector as the essential business infrastructure it is so they can move quickly and efficiently back to work. Check out these webinars – recording available after the event:
- Developing Supportive and Responsive Child Care Policies During COVID-19 (May 20, 2020)
- Make Early Learning a Priority Identifying Where You Are and Taking Action (June 24, 2020)
About the Author
Patrick Hain is the Program Manager for Financial Empowerment in the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.