HARTFORD - Connecticut faces the prospect of losing about 45,000 child care spaces without government intervention, given the serious financial and staffing challenges the coronavirus pandemic has imposed on the industry, the state's top childcare official said Tuesday.
Beth Bye, commissioner of the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood, said the state was already losing day care slots prior to the pandemic because so many providers operated on tight budgets. Citing projections from the Center for American Progress, she said more licensed family day care providers and day care centers are expected to close or reduce slots as they grapple with strict social distancing rules, nervous parents unwilling to send their children, anxious employees reluctant to return, and the scheduled end of federal financial assistance next month.
“So before this (pandemic), we were losing programs. Now we’re saying to programs that were barely making it, you can take half as many kids,” Bye said during a video news conference. “The usual demand is down and we’ve cut their supply in half. There’s no way they can make it. So this is why the federal funds are critical.”
Unlike many other states, Connecticut allowed day care providers to remain open during the pandemic, but with enhanced safety precautions. Providers that didn't close their doors have been required to limit groups to no more than 10 children in one space, impose temperature checks of staff and children, and increase hygiene and sanitation practices. Grants have been made available to encourage programs to remain open to care for children of health workers and first responders.
U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said she plans to introduce an emergency appropriations bill on Wednesday that seeks $50 billion in additional funding to help the nation's child care industry.
“The state of Connecticut, but the entire country, is on the precipice of a childcare crisis. In good times, these are small businesses that operate on razor thin margins. And now, with the pandemic, they are facing financial ruin,” she said, citing national data that show more than 50% of childcare programs across the U.S. could close at a time when states are reopening and employees are returning to work.