Kentucky’s fragile child care ecosystem needs federal support – Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence
Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence

Kentucky’s fragile child care ecosystem needs federal support

This week on Innovations in Education, we focused on child care in Kentucky as it relates to COVID-19 closures. On Monday morning, the Prichard Committee, along with a partnership of Kentucky-based organizations (United Way of Kentucky, Kentucky Youth Advocates, Child Care Advocates of Kentucky, Metro United Way, Learning Grove, and United Way of Greater Cincinnati) released the results of a survey to 2,172 child care providers. Much of the conversation on Innovations focused on those results.

Innovations in Education: Kentucky Childcare Provider Survey

The event will detail the results of the childcare provider survey conducted by the Prichard Committee, United Way of Kentucky, Kentucky Youth Advocates, Child Care Advocates of Kentucky, Metro United Way, Learning Grove, and United Way of Greater Cincinnati.The panel discussion will include Kevin Middleton, United Way of Kentucky; Brigitte Blom Ramsey, Prichard Committee; Ashli Watts, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce; Terry Brooks, Kentucky Youth Advocates; Sarah Vanover, Division of Child Care; Amy Neal, Governor's Office of Early Childhood; and Bridget Yates, Cornerstone Child Development Center.

Posted by Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence on Monday, June 8, 2020

According to the survey results, 11 to 15 percent of providers who responded may have to close permanently due to the financial impact of the COVID-19 crisis if federal aid is not increased. While this number may seem small in comparison to the economic impact on other industries, this hit could be cataclysmic for the child care system as a whole that has lost nearly half of its providers since 2013.

Our panelists included:

  • Co-host Kevin Middleton, United Way of Kentucky
  • Terry Brooks, Kentucky Youth Advocates
  • Bridget Yates, Cornerstone Child Development Center
  • Ashli Watts, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
  • Amy Neal, Governor’s Office of Early Childhood
  • Sarah Vanover, Kentucky Division of Child Care

During the broadcast, Kevin Middleton, president of United Way of Kentucky, outlined the child care advocacy partners’ call to action.

“At the Federal level, we are calling for Congress to provide $50 billion in assistance to child care as part of current federal stimulus efforts,” said Middleton. “The assistance must allow states like Kentucky to support operating costs during mandated closures and capacity restrictions, as well as co-pays and tuition based on enrollment, training and professional development, and facility maintenance and cleaning.  Support will also be needed for costs related to re-opening and re-hiring as restrictions on operating are phased out.”

More than 1,500 of the state’s 2,172 providers from 106 of Kentucky’s 120 counties participated in the survey. Survey findings include the following:

  • The majority (34%) of surveyed providers serve between 50-100 children at their centers.
  • Approximately 52% of providers have between 5 and 20 employees.
  • Approximately 66% of providers surveyed have laid off staff during the shutdown, and 67% of those employees are relying on unemployment insurance for income according to survey results.
  • The majority of providers responding did not apply to stimulus programs through the Small Business Administration (SBA) – either the Paycheck Protection Program (57%) or Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (70%).
  • Facility rent/mortgage and employee salaries have been the largest expenses for child care providers during the shutdown.
  • The chief concern of surveyed providers is the health and safety of children and staff when centers re-open.

Key take-aways from the discussion:

  • Amy Neal, Governor’s Office of Early Childhood, underscored the importance of early childhood education to a child’s development. “When kids start behind, they stay behind,” she said. “In Kentucky, 49% of children were not ready when they entered kindergarten last year.”
  • Ashley Watts, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, a mother of two young children, said she is living and breathing what parents are facing with childcare during the pandemic. “When you’re talking about a highly educated, highly trained workforce, the work starts in quality early childhood care. We need to lay the foundation for the workforce of tomorrow, while at the same time ensuring our workforce has quality child care options for their children. This has been the top barrier to getting our workforce back to work during the pandemic.”
  • Sarah Vanover, Kentucky Division of Child Care, said only 80 emergency child care centers have been operating in the state since March. In-home centers opened up this week, and public centers will open up next week under strict guidelines.
  • Brigitte Yates is the director of the Cornerstone Child Development Center, which serves 150 youngsters ages birth through 5, and has 40 staff members. “We are a small non-profit that furloughed staff but were able to provide continued heath care.” Her center will open June 29 following a building remodel to implement safety precautions and meet guidelines. “We will be operating at a deficit – with far fewer kids returning.”
  • Terry Brooks, Kentucky Youth Advocates, said many Kentucky leaders have been working for years to increase access to safe and quality child care because it’s good for kids, good for parents and good for the economy. “Unfortunately prior to the pandemic we know that 52% of Kentuckians lived in a ‘childcare desert’ which means there weren’t enough providers to meet the needs of Kentucky’s kids and workforce. Those who were operating were small businesses working on a razor-thin margin and we knew they’d be hit hard by the pandemic.”

The Innovations in Education conversation ended with a reminder about the child care partners’ call to Congress, and Kentucky’s urgent need for nearly $1 billion in stimulus funding to keeps child care centers functioning. You can send your own email to Congress about this important issue here.

At the state level, we are asking Gov. Beshear to continue his support for the sector by further elevating child care as part of the critical infrastructure necessary for Kentucky to be Healthy at Work, by creating a COVID-19 Child Care Task Force. Doing so would ensure necessary feedback from providers, families, businesses and communities on sector needs, and would inform the allocation of any additional federal assistance.

Next time on Innovations in Education:

On Wednesday, June 17, at 3 p.m. the Prichard Committee’s Innovations in Education online broadcast will focus on how lack of internet access in rural and low-income communities is impacting education, business and healthcare due to COVID-19. Panelists will join us from 55,000 Degrees, Kentucky Farm Bureau, the Mountain Association of Economic & Community Development, and Pew Research Center. 

We are also planning several virtual events for the week of June 22 to discuss racial equity in our schools. Please note, we have moved our episodes to Wednesdays at 3 p.m.

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