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Study ranks Florida 6th in the nation for highest amount of at-risk childcare slots

A new study sheds light on the possible ripple effect of closing down day cares at the beginning of the pandemic.

Numbers from the Center For American Progress rank Florida No. 6 in the nation including Washington D.C. for the number of slots at risk. 56% of slots are on the line, which translates to almost 420,000. Utah takes the No. 1 spot with 73% of slots at risk.

The biggest hurdle day cares face is funding. Centers are seeing less attendance since parents might still be cautious of their child contracting COVID-19. That’s on top of more safety requirements.

“Parents are opting not to bring the children back right now, especially if they have older siblings home that are taking advantage of e-learning. Or finding relatives to watch them because they feel its a safer option for them,” Imagination Station Day Care Director Jackie Lang said.

These centers receive some funding from enrollment numbers and the number of children that attend dictates how many employees need to be present.

Before the pandemic, Imagination Station staff could enroll 44 children but had 39 children in their care. Now they have 23.

“We cannot have half of a staff and everybody show up and we don’t have the personnel to take care of the children,” Lang said.

According to the National Women’s Law Center, there were 237,000 fewer employed child care workers in June of 2020 compared to June of 2019. Women make up the vast majority of the workforce. Of those women, 20% are Latina and 19% are Black. This means women and especially women of color are most impacted by Coronavirus day care closures. Lang says her staff is entirely women of color.

She tells ABC Action News that colleagues have had to take cost-cutting measures and usually payroll is the largest expense for these businesses.

“There were some that actually had to furlough, or you know, trim their staff in order to meet payroll,” Lang said.

Funding from the CARES act contributed $3.5 billion to help day care centers. Each state’s Child Care Development Block Grant received money. Florida received more than $223 million. But advocacy groups say $50 billion is needed to keep the industry afloat.

The Childcare is Essential bill fulfills that dollar amount. It’s gone through the House and Senate, but remains stuck in the appropriations committee. No action has been taken since July 30.

Lang said when the pandemic first started, she closed down her day care for three weeks. But recently, she’s received funding from the local and state level, and even supplies from community partners.

Right now, she’s worried about how this will impact foundational education for young children.

“Those children will miss out on a lot,” Lang said. “Those parents that don’t have any other options are going to opt for just a place for the children to be, not really giving a lot of weight to the educational piece of it.”

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