/Mississippi child care centers face closures due to coronavirus

Mississippi child care centers face closures due to coronavirus

Although her 10,000-square-foot facility could hold 150 children, as parents became unemployed or continued working from home after March’s economic crash, her attendance has dropped to less than 40. Imagine: lights, water, and everything goes on. Alexander spoke to Mississippi Today in May. He said that he still had to provide food, water, and other necessities for his children. “I don’t know how much longer we can keep the doors open,” Alexander said. The survey didn’t distinguish between child-care providers that rely on government subsidies and those with more wealthy, private-pay clients. Mississippi officials closed public schools mid-March, but they did not make any decision about the 1,462 state licensed child care centers. More than half of these have shut down. According to the Mississippi Department of Human Services, only 636 child care centers were still open as of May 31st. Child care centers were instructed by local health officials to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This includes increasing the intensity of disinfection and cleaning, and limiting the number children in each classroom. At a time when child-care centers are struggling to manage their finances, this will require additional staff. Carol Burnett, executive director at the Mississippi Low-Income Child Care Initiative, stated that “it’s been this crazy confusing series of circumstances that child care centres are finding themselves really in an difficult spot trying to respond the needs of parents while remaining solvent.” The nation’s child-care system is an important part of the economy. It is a private sector, and parents often don’t have enough income to pay the weekly bills. A voucher from the Child Care Payment Program section of the federal Child Care Development Fund block grants can be used to subsidize child care. The copayment is a portion of child care tuition that parents must pay. Parents can use their voucher at any Child Care Payment Program provider approved by Human Services. The Initiative estimates that the voucher has been able to reach only 10 to 20% of the parents who are eligible based on their income. Although the Department of Human Services stated that the long waiting list for voucher approval was eliminated by 2019, many parents still wait and scrape together day care. Low-income parents might not be eligible due to other eligibility barriers such as the requirement that they cooperate with child support enforcement. Burnett stated that many providers working in low-income communities try to work with parents. Sometimes, they provide uncompensated care in the hope that the parents will eventually get the voucher. This is just another reason centers are struggling financially. In light of COVID-19, the Mississippi Department of Human Services applied for and was granted a waiver by the federal government. This allowed it to continue paying vouchers to child-care centers based on enrollment and not attendance in March or April. Although this policy was beneficial to centers with large voucher populations, it did not consider centers in low-income areas, which provide services for many working parents and were barely making ends meets before the virus struck. The centers had to keep charging parents the voucher copayment for weeks so they could continue to receive the subsidy. Until the state obtained another federal waiver, it was finally lifted. Burnett explained to Mississippi Today that DHS tried to be supportive and generous, and they did, to the extent they sought the waiver for copayment. However, the measure had less impact than DHS realizes. Mississippi will receive $47 million more from the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act in its Child Care Development Fund to help working parents. Human Services and Mississippi State Department of Health offered child care assistance during the pandemic to critical workers such as emergency workers, heath care workers and first responders. However, they did not offer emergency care assistance to private essential employees like grocery and retail workers. Human Services had already issued 695 emergency certificates by May 22nd and helped to open two new emergency child-care centers in Petal, and Purvis. The emergency certificate was also issued to 318 other centers that were designated as crisis assistance centers. Bob Anderson, Human Services director, stated in April that “We have essential and emergency personnel risking their lives every day to continue to provide care and support necessary to sustain our daily life.” “They shouldn’t have to find both care and education for children.” The Mississippi Low Income Child Care Initiative recommended that the state take additional steps to stabilize child care delivery systems and increase access to child-care subsidies. This included suspending copayments and relaxing requirements such as child support enforcement. If there are prolonged COVID-19-related closures or enrollment declines, some (centers), could be permanently closed. In a letter sent to Human Services on April 10, the Initiative stated that CCPP (Child Care Payment Program), should be strong and available to as many parents as possible. Burnett is concerned about the future of child care centers if the state does not make targeted investments. This comes as the state economy slows reopens. Alexander’s dilemma is that she can no longer accept children from the parents who are returning to work, and she has to reduce staff. She said that she had parents who were trying to get into the facility again, but couldn’t because they can’t afford to pay someone for an additional, possibly three child. Alexander could technically have required that the parents who had their children at home continue to pay the child care fee to “hold” their place at her center. But she has chosen to not impose this financial burden on her parents. Alexander stated, “In a situation like this, there’s no way that I could look at my family and say, ‘Hey, you must continue to pay me.'” “So, at this point I am just suffering through.”