Child Care Reopen Survey Reflects Concern for Health, Financial Instability

Child Care Reopen Survey Reflects Concern for Health, Financial Instability

Oregon’s child care providers are feeling strong financial pressure to reopen, but are unsure of their ability to effectively implement health, safety, and other requirements outlined by the state.

That’s according to more than 1,600 providers who responded to a survey conducted in April by Oregon’s Early Learning Division. The ELD says that the responses helped to update standards for child care in mid-May, and promises more detailed analysis and additional surveys to come.

More than half of providers responding to the survey were open, mostly as emergency care providers (62 percent).

Respondents represented a wide range of setting types, demographic and geographic backgrounds.

In addition to English, 128 respondents took the survey in Spanish and 16 took the survey in Russian. There were no respondents in the other languages offered (Vietnamese, Simplified and Traditional Chinese).

eld survey child care 5.20

Provider representation by zip code. Source: ELD

Social Distancing Requirement Considered Impossible

Licensed and regulated child care in Oregon can take many forms, from smaller, home-based settings to large, center-type facilities. Regardless of setting type, providers overwhelmingly cited the ability to maintain six feet of social distance as one of the most difficult requirements to implement.

A number of providers felt that doing so with infants and young children was a practical impossibility. Maintaining stable groups of 10 or fewer is also very difficult for all but those registered as family providers, who usually care for just a small number of children.

 

Source: ELD

Reopening Barriers

Health and safety concerns are the biggest barrier to reopening for respondents who are not currently operating, presumably due to COVID-19 related issues (49 percent). Providers expressed concern about their ability to keep themselves, their staff, and the children under their care healthy without a significant reduction in cases or a widely-available vaccine. Some did not feel it would be safe to reopen until the coronavirus is eliminated and others said that reopening was not an option due to their own or family members’ health status.

Source: ELD

Financial Support Needed

The cost of operating with lower or limited enrollment was the second most-cited barrier, especially for providers who usually serve larger numbers of children. All types of providers felt that financial stabilization or tuition replacement assistance will be necessary to reopen. Many providers who are currently operating said that they are doing so at a financial loss or barely covering costs. Offering hazard (recognition) pay for staff and additional training for staff was also named as a top priority.  

The full report is here and includes more detailed information about providers’ responses and comments on the survey’s open-ended questions.

supports to reopen child care

Source: ELD

Child Care Crisis Not Limited to Oregon

Oregon’s survey results echo those from similar surveys conducted in other states like CaliforniaNew Jersey, and Nebraska.

In addition to state-level efforts to support child care, there is increasing awareness that federal investment is necessary to keep the child care industry afloat.

Oregon Representative Suzanne Bonamici, Senator Jeff Merkley, and Senator Ron Wyden have called for $50 billion in emergency funding for child care in the next coronavirus stimulus package. 

 

Bonamici Report: Child  Care in Crisis

Bonamici Report: Child Care in Crisis

What We’re Reading

Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici has issued a report on the state of child care in Oregon and across the nation. “Child Care in Crisis: Solutions to Support Working Families, Children and Educators,” is informed by conversations with providers, early childhood educators, and parents. Their stories illustrate in clear terms that healthy child care infrastructure is essential.

As our country grapples with systemic racism and ongoing gaps in access to opportunity, Bonamici’s report places child care issues squarely in that context:

“Fixing the child care system is also an issue of racial justice. The child care workforce is overwhelmingly women, and predominantly women of color. We must make sure child care providers and early childhood educators are paid a living wage that reflects the value of their highly-skilled work. Along with other barriers, families of color face income gaps that make quality child care even less affordable. Black, Indigenous, and other children of color are more likely to be in the least supported child care settings, and many child care settings are segregated by race. Resources must be distributed in a way that focuses on equity and on dismantling the systemic underinvestment in Black, Indigenous, and other families and workers of color.”

The report describes the pre-COVID child care crisis in Oregon, the ways the pandemic has exacerbated this crisis and created new problems, policy efforts to stabilize the industry during the pandemic, and a proposed path forward, including specific legislative actions to increase resources for families and the child care workforce.

An Existing Child Care Crisis in Oregon

Bonamici’s report says that the existing child care crisis in our state boils down to three main issues:

There is a vast, unmet need for high-quality, affordable child care.

“Early childhood education fosters children’s social and emotional development and prepares them to thrive in school and throughout life. Investment in early learning, including quality child care, is also good for the economy because it allows parents to work, seek work, or participate in their own educational advancement, while knowing their children are safe and learning. Unfortunately, there is more need than available care. According to the Oregon State University College of Public Health and Human Sciences, all 36 counties in Oregon were child care deserts for infants and toddlers before the pandemic, with only one child care slot for every three children who need care. Families in rural areas face even more scarcity. Access to affordable, high quality child care tends to be hardest for low-income families and families of color.”

Available child care comes at a high cost to families.

“Working families in Oregon pay some of the highest child care costs in the country. Child care can cost as much as, or more than, college. According to research by Child Care Aware, infant care in a center in Oregon averages $13,518 per year compared to $10,610 for in-state college tuition at a public college. In the Portland Metro area families are paying upwards of $21,000 per year for center-based infant care.”

“Although the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that no more than 7 percent of household income go toward child care payments, the average in Oregon is 14.7 percent for preschool and 18 percent for infant and toddler care. This burden is much higher for low-income families.”

Compensation and benefits for early childhood educators are insufficient.

“The quality of a child care program depends on the quality of the staff. Increasingly, child care programs require advanced degrees and credentials to reflect the science and skills required of this workforce. Yet while education and training requirements have increased, wages have remained stagnant.”

“[Child care providers] are paid near-poverty wages, and nearly half are eligible for public assistance. In Oregon the average annual income of early childhood educators is $26,740, and nationwide they are paid on average $10.72 an hour. Additionally, child care providers and early childhood educators often lack some of the same benefits afforded to other workers, such as paid vacation time and health care. This disproportionately affects women and women of color, who make up about half of the child care workforce. Skilled, supported, and knowledgeable early childhood educators provide high-quality education, nurture the social and emotional development of children, and set children on a path to success. Low hourly wages and few or no benefits not only jeopardize the financial security of workers, but also negatively affect retention and quality.”

Problems Exacerbated by COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated all of the child care industry’s pre-existing problems. From the report:

“Prior to COVID-19, Oregon had 3,835 licensed providers with the capacity to serve approximately 128,000 children in child care. During the pandemic, Oregon Governor Kate Brown required that all child care programs close unless they were operating as emergency child care for essential workers—2,200 programs stayed open as emergency child care.”

“Although these providers have the capacity to serve about 23,000 children, only 15,000 children are currently enrolled. This means that only 12 percent of the children who attended care before COVID-19 are attending care during the pandemic. The providers that have remained open also face increased expenses to care for children safely, including the cost of purchasing personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies, and they also lose revenue because they must limit classroom sizes.”

As providers have responded to the pandemic by closing their doors, or by limiting enrollment to children of essential workers, many have struggled to pay for continuing operating expenses such as rent, insurance, and utilities with dramatically decreased or non-existent revenue. The report makes it clear that these circumstances will do devastating damage to an already delicate child care situation:

“The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) found that 27 percent of the Oregon child care providers it surveyed indicated they would not survive a closure of more than two weeks without additional funding. Alarmingly, 21 percent reported they could not survive a closure of any length without additional funding. Nationwide, we have already seen more than 330,000 child care providers and early childhood educators lose their jobs in a workforce that is predominantly women and women of color.”

“Without swift action, many providers and centers—whether they are small family childcare businesses, franchise locations, or national child care providers—will not be able to reopen their doors when physical distancing requirements are eased. The Center for American Progress estimates that as many as 44,000 slots could be permanently lost in Oregon.”

Policy Efforts to Stabilize the Industry During the Pandemic

Bonamici’s report outlines important legislative wins that have acted to bolster the child care industry and support families with young children during the pandemic. These include:

  • The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which expanded access to emergency paid sick time and paid family leave to nearly 87 million workers to help cover their own illness, illness of a family member, as well as child care and school closures
  • The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which included:
    • Federal funds for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program for continued payment and assistance to child care providers and to support child care for essential workers
    • Key supports for early childhood educators, including a suspension of payments on federally-held student loans
    • Access to small business loans of up to $10 million that can be forgiven, if programs use the loans for specific purposes such as wages, paid sick or family leave, health insurance benefits, retirement benefits, mortgages or rent, or utilities

A Proposed Path Forward

Bonamici ends her report with a commitment to pursue additional legislation that would continue to stabilize and support the child care industry, as well as families with young children, through the pandemic and beyond. Details on the specific proposed and current legislation can be found in the full report.

“If substantial support is not provided to sustain the child care sector, programs will continue to bear a steep financial burden and be forced to shutter permanently. And if child care is not available as businesses reopen, parents—mostly mothers—will find it impossible to go back to work. This will have long-term consequences for our families and economy,” says Bonamici.

 

 

 

 

 

Blumenauer Endorses Child Care Support in COVID-19 Stimulus Bill

Blumenauer Endorses Child Care Support in COVID-19 Stimulus Bill

As the fallout from COVID-19 begins to impact nearly all aspects of life in the United States, political leaders at the local, state, and federal levels are all grappling with how best to preserve public health and mitigate economic and other damage related to the virus.

Members of Congress are working now on a bill that is expected to include added unemployment benefits, free virus testing, food assistance, tax credits for businesses, and additional funds for Medicaid.

One sticking point in the negotiations: paid family and medical leave. Democrats reportedly want paid leave for those who are ill or caring for ill family members, while Republicans believe that offering the benefit too broadly will result in workers taking advantage of the benefit, impeding economic recovery.

National Efforts to Ensure Support for Children and Families

On Wednesday, a coalition of 39 early childhood advocates jointly sent a letter to Congress urging support for early care and education programming as legislators develop a stimulus package to address the impact of COVID-19. The authors call for “significant and flexible” emergency funding to address the growing public health and economic crisis.

The letter reads in part, “Child care is the backbone of our nation’s economy; without it, millions of parents cannot go to work or attend school, and the U.S. economy suffers billions of dollars in losses. The spread of COVID-19 threatens this system on multiple fronts, as nearly 2 million early childhood educators are trying to effectively and safely care for and educate children, meet the needs of families, protect staff, and cover all of the expenses required to keep their doors open. Child care programs in every state already operate on razor thin margins and teeter on the edge of financial health.”

Read the full letter here.

Asked to comment, Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer shared in a statement that he supports efforts to include child care in any stimulus package under consideration and is working in the house to ensure that families will be supported.

“It is necessary to support our nutrition programs and ensure protections for working families, especially in the face of school closures. I am very grateful for the efforts of all early childhood organizations, those on the front lines and those like Children’s Institute, who are advocating and raising necessary funds to keep our children safe and healthy in Oregon.”

At the State Level

The Ounce of Prevention Fund has also issued COVID-19 guidance to state legislators related to the needs of early care and education providers, and other family self-sufficiency programs.

Among the recommendations are a request to temporarily suspend family eligibility requirements for supports like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), so that workforce participation, earnings and other factors that may be impacted by COVID-19 are not barriers to eligibility.

The guidance suggests that state funding be offered to support members of the childhood education workforce who are unable to work due to illness or the need to care for someone who is ill. It requests emergency grants for programs to cover potential increases in substitute costs, extended sick leave for staff, or additional sanitation needs in facilities. It also asks for reductions in unnecessary and burdensome paperwork and for flexibility in reporting and grant requirements.

In Oregon

Oregon’s Early Learning Division (ELD) on Friday announced that it would be extending the deadline on applications for Early Learning Funding from the Student Success Act to Monday, May 4, given the extraordinary circumstances created by the COVID-19 outbreak.

It also clarified that child care centers would not be required to close. In a press release issued late Friday, Early Learning System Director, Miriam Calderon said, “Child care is a critical support for working families, their children, and businesses. We know that child care programs will experience similar operational issues to K-12 schools and we should anticipate that closures will happen. As long as families are working, we will support child care businesses to stay open.”

The ELD says it will be working to make exceptions and offer flexibility to existing rules that do not compromise child health and safety. It will also seek federal waivers to expand assistance for families and providers.

 

2020 Census: Accurate Count is Key for Kids

2020 Census: Accurate Count is Key for Kids

Beginning in March, the U.S Census Bureau will begin its count of the nation’s residents. Mandated by the Constitution every 10 years, the census informs a broad range of planning, policy making, and funding decisions made by the federal government.

In Oregon, the impact of the census on young children and families is significant, which is why Children’s Institute and others are supporting broad efforts to ensure that everyone in the state participates in the count. Programs like Head Start, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), special education and SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Program) are all tied to population statistics developed through the census.

A task force created after the 2010 census identified a number of hard-to-count communities. Among those groups are children under 5, immigrants, rural residents, and those with disabilities. This year, the hope is that additional outreach efforts will help to ensure that those communities are represented in the final tally. The Census Bureau is also adding language to the census questionnaire that offers more specific instructions to include foster children, grandchildren, and children who are not blood relatives.

An image from the We Count Oregon campaign

We Count Oregon is organizing the state’s hard-to-count campaign working with a broad coalition of advocacy and policy organizations. Their website includes a number of resources to support participation, including a social media kit, training and event opportunities, and even a downloadable coloring book.

“We project that about 6 percent of Oregon residents are children under 5 and that means we need to reach all of their parents and guardians to compel them to accurately report these little ones to ensure they get the funding for services they deserve,” says Mandy Yeahpau, We Count Oregon’s communications director.

The Census Bureau is also running a Census in Schools campaign with specific resources for educators.

And Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit arm of the organization behind the iconic children’s show, has also joined in the effort, with a set of print and digital materials that can be downloaded and shared.

Households should begin receiving census information March 12, with the option to complete their form online, by phone, or through the mail.

 

2020 Presidential Candidates on Child Care and Preschool

2020 Presidential Candidates on Child Care and Preschool

UPDATE: Bernie Sanders has released a more detailed plan for early care and education since this post was originally published January 22. The link to that plan is here. 

Wondering about the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates’ plans for early care and education? So were we!

Oregon’s Early Learning Division reports that 19 percent of Oregon’s investment in early care and education comes from federal resources, which underscores the potential impact of a president’s plans on the 236,000 children in Oregon under 5.  And though public policies that affect young children and families cut across a broad range of categories, including health, housing, and immigration to name just a few, this comparison focuses on child care and preschool access.

We’ve also narrowed the field to the six candidates who are polling above 3 percent nationally and who have expressed substantive views on early care and education. 

Michael Bloomberg, who announced his candidacy in November, doesn’t have enough publicly available information on his plans for early childhood care and education for us to include here, though his website does include a section on maternal health, a focus of his philanthropic work. The candidate websites of Michael Bennett, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Deval Patrick, and Tom Steyer, are linked here as well. Bennett, a former school superintendent from Colorado, and Delaney, a Maryland congressman, have the most to say on early childhood-related topics of the candidates polling below 3 percent.

Following is a summary comparison of the six remaining candidates:  Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang. Keep scrolling to the end for a list of additional coverage and resources if you’d like to learn more. The Democratic primary calendar begins with the Iowa caucuses on February 3. Oregon’s primary is scheduled for May 19, with just four states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands voting after that date.

Joe Biden: A Focus on Social Emotional Health

Universal PreK? Yes for all

Child Care: Supports tripling the child care tax credit to $8000 and limiting household out-of pocket spending on child care to 10 percent of income.

Highlights:

We’ve got to invest in every child— regardless of zip code or race or parents’ income. In a Biden Administration, we’ll provide high-quality, universal pre-K for all three- and four-year-olds to ensure every kid gets a fair shot.

  • Increase in spending on special education and mental health supports.
  • Include an early childhood development expert in community health centers and pediatricians’ offices with a high percentage of Medicaid and CHIP participants.
  • Double funding for home visiting programs, and double the number of psychologists, guidance counselors, nurses, social workers, and other health professionals in schools.

More at: https://joebiden.com/education/

We will make crucial improvements to early childhood learning so all students are prepared for kindergarten, and resource our K–12 teachers and schools to ensure students can learn and succeed regardless of their family income or zip code.

Pete Buttigieg: Explicit on Equity

Universal PreK? Yes for low-income families.

Child Care: Proposes a $700 billion investment to provide child care for children from birth to 5. Supports a cap on cost to families for early care and education to no more than 7 percent of income.

Highlights:

  • Supports a mixed-delivery child care provider system, home visiting programs, and dual language curriculum in early education.
  • Wants to “appoint federal leadership” that works to coordinate early childhood supports. Supports expansion of Head Start into a full-time program.
  • Invest $2 billion per year in early childhood workforce development and loan forgiveness for early childhood educators, and expand research on child development by providing $5 billion to the National Institutes of Health.
  • Buttigieg is one of the only candidates to explicitly mention equity in the early learning system, including the proposed creation of a $10 billion equity fund to support, test, and scale new practices and innovative policies.

More at: https://peteforamerica.com/policies/education/

Amy Klobuchar: Working Families & Wage Parity

Universal PreK? Yes for low-income families.

Child Care: Create a paid family leave program to provide 12 weeks of paid leave per year to care for a new child or other serious health need. Co-sponsor of the Child Care for Working Families Act. Proposes cap on child care spending to 7 percent of income for families making up to 150 percent of their state’s median income through a new federal-state partnership.

It’s impossible to have a strong economy when it’s too expensive to work because of child care.

Highlights:

  • Provide grants to Head Start and Early Head Start to provide full-day, year-round programming.
  • Increase the availability of child care through competitive grants to states to support the training and retention of child care workers and to build, renovate, or expand child care facilities in areas with shortages.
  • Require wage parity for early childhood educators who have comparable credentials with their elementary school peers.
  • Increase the corporate tax rate one additional point to 28 percent and tighten corporate tax loopholes to pay for cost of her plan.

More at: https://amyklobuchar.com/child-care-and-paid-family-leave/

In a society with our resources, it is unconscionable that we do not properly invest in our children from the very first stages of their lives.

Bernie Sanders: Universal Care for All

Universal PreK? Yes for all.

Child Care: Sanders, who once worked as a Head Start teacher, sponsored legislation in 2011 to provide universal care and early education for children from six weeks old through kindergarten.  The Foundations for Success Act did not make it through Congress. He also co-sponsored the Child Care for Working Families Act.

Highlights: A tax on Wall Street speculation would pay for universal preschool and “educational supportive” programs.

More at: https://feelthebern.org/bernie-sanders-on-children/

Elizabeth Warren: Specific and Detailed

Universal PreK? Yes, for families earning less than 200 percent of the federal poverty line.

Child Care: A co-sponsor of the Child Care for Working Families Act, Warren has also introduced her own plan, the Universal Child Care and Early Learning Plan. Offers a calculator on her website for families to estimate the savings they would receive under that plan.  Supports a cap on child care costs at 7 percent of income.

Highlights:

  • Warren touts her plan for early care and education as the centerpiece of her campaign. She supports a federally subsidized, mixed-delivery provider system.
  • Care settings would be locally controlled, but operate under national quality standards.
  • To pay for her Universal Child Care and Early Learning Plan, she proposes an “ultra-millionaire tax” on households with a net worth of more than $50 million. Warren estimates the tax would generate $2.75 trillion dollars, more than four times the cost of her proposed early care and education plan.

More at: elizabethwarren.com

We’re the richest country in the history of the planet. Access to high-quality care and education during the first five years of a child’s life shouldn’t be a privilege reserved for the rich. It should be a right for every child.

Being a parent is the toughest job on the planet, even with a partner and strong extended family to rely on. It’s even tougher for the 13.6 million single parents out there, most of them mothers… We should be doing more to help them and the approximately 21 million children being raised in single-parent households.

Andrew Yang: Prioritize Single Parents

Universal PreK? Yes. Says he will increase federal funding for preschool programs.

Child Care: In addition to his signature proposal to offer a universal basic income of $1000 a month for all adults, his campaign website says he would provide tax breaks for child care services.

Highlights:

  • Supports the creation of “responsibility networks” that allow single parents to work with each other for child care and other responsibilities.
  • Invest in communal housing specifically for single parents to be able to pool resources and caregiving.
  • Provide loan forgiveness for education majors who volunteer at places that provide pre-K education.

More at: https://www.yang2020.com/policies/early-childhood-education/

Rob Grunewald on the Economic Impact of Early Childhood Investments

Rob Grunewald on the Economic Impact of Early Childhood Investments

In this episode of The Early Link Podcast, we speak with Rob Grunewald, an economist who advocates for investments in early childhood programs and services.

Rob Grunewald is an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. He conducts research on community development and regional economic issues and co-authored a report called “Early Childhood Development: Economic Development with a High Public Return.”

Background

There are 12 Federal Reserve banks in the US, and the Minneapolis Federal Reserve serves Minnesota, northern WI and MI, Dakotas, and Montana. The mission of the Federal Reserve banks is to provide the nation with stable monetary policy and a safe and flexible financial system. This includes deciding which investments will have the most positive effect on the local economy. 

The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis’ interest in supporting early childhood development programs is important because these programs are rarely portrayed as economic development initiatives. If such programs exist they are usually at the bottom of the economic development lists for state and local governments. However, research has shown that is a mistake. Early childhood development programs should be at the top of the list. Most of the numerous projects and initiatives that state and local governments fund in the name of creating new private businesses and new jobs result in few public benefits. In contrast, studies liked the ones cited in Grunewald’s report find that well-focused investments in early childhood development yield high public as well as private returns.

Recommended Reading

“Early Childhood Development: Economic Development with a High Public Return”

“The Promise of Early Childhood Development in Indian County”

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