Child care providers weigh the costs and benefits of reopening
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Jason Gindele runs Mainspring Schools in Austin, Texas. It’s a nonprofit child care center for children up to age 5, mostly from low-income families, and it has been closed since March.
He’s aware of how crucial his center is to those families.
“We’re cognizant of the fact that there’s pressure on them to return to work both for their own personal, basic needs and by their employers,” he said.
The state allowed child care centers to open back in May, but the high infection rates and hospitalizations of COVID-19 in Austin this summer made Gindele wary of reopening. He’s now planning to open right after Labor Day.
He gets funding from the local school district for educating low-income children. That funding is tied to the school calendar.
“We don’t have the funds to continue the way we have been,” he said.
Around 30% of child care centers in the state of Texas are closed and in danger of not being able to reopen, according to David Feigen, a policy associate for Texans Care for Children.
“How many parents are just gonna decide they’re better off quitting their job and not returning to the workforce because they can’t afford to send their children or they’re afraid to?” Feigen asked.
And fewer child care centers could hurt the larger Texas economy.
Until now, Gindele said he has relied on a good savings account, a Paycheck Protection Program loan of $230,000 and local grants to help pay his staff. When he reopens, he expects enrollment to drop to 50%, or maybe 70%, of what it was before the pandemic. Despite that, he’s going to remain fully staffed because he’ll need to have enough workers on hand if someone gets sick and needs to quarantine.
“That creates an upside-down financial situation for us,” he said.
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