One critical element for Connecticut to fully get back to work is quality child care.
But because of consequences, mainly financial, from the coronavirus pandemic, the state stands to lose an estimated 45,000 child care spaces. Government intervention is necessary to keep this vital industry operating; the overall recovery will falter if 45,000 working parents cannot go back to their jobs.
Backup systems may be nonexistent — leave the kids with grandparents? These days they are likely to be working, too. Leave the children alone? Of course not.
Turn to a neighbor? That’s not the answer. State-licensed child care is the best option for the well-being and safety of the children.
But the commissioner of the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood, Beth Bye, warned last week that the state already was losing child care spaces before the pandemic and now the situation will be exacerbated.
“The usual demand is down, and we’ve cut their supply in half. There’s no way they can make it,” she said, citing projections from the Center for American Progress.
Unlike other states, Connecticut allowed licensed family day care providers and day care centers to remain open — with restrictions. Initially, they had to limit groups of no more than 10 children in one space, do temperature checks of the staff and children, and increase hygiene and sanitation practices — all sensible measures to try to limit the spread of the virus.
But for homes and centers already operating with thin margins, the reduction of children put them in precarious positions.
On Wednesday, Gov. Ned Lamont increased the number of children in a center to 50 without needing state approval. That will help, but some parents might still be reluctant to leave their children and return to work until the state reaches another phase of lower cases, hospitalizations and deaths. (It should be noted that the trend was going in the right direction, but the results of partially re-opening the state on May 20 to outside dining and Monday to hair salons and barbershops may not be known yet, as well any effect of closer contact from recent protests around the state.)
Federal financial assistance is what can keep the businesses afloat, but that is scheduled to end next month. Grants had been available for child and day care places to remain open and care for children of health workers and first responders.
Extended, substantial, federal financial assistance is the answer to maintaining the child care industry, built mainly of small and home businesses. Nonprofits, such as the United Way of Western Connecticut, had made progress with helping child care home providers to become state licensed.
U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd, said she would introduce a bill in the House for $50 billion in additional funding for the child care industry.
Not only Connecticut, but also the entire country, is “on the precipice of a child care crisis,” she said.
A child care crisis would affect every other industry, and must be averted for the economy to improve.