COLORADO SPRINGS — When essential workers were needed in order to keep normalcy in El Paso County, childcare became essential.
"We know within the first two weeks of COVID-19, about 40 daycare centers in the county shut down," said Kelly Hurtado, Program Manager of Alliance for Kids. It's an agency that serves as the Early Childhood Council for El Paso County, and also functions as a local child care resource & referral service.
According to the Colorado Office of Early Childhood, there are about 5,000 licensed daycare centers in the state. Hurtado says about 120 daycare centers in El Paso County are still open, and the ones that did close were under financial stress already.
"These are often times small businesses that are operating on very small profit margins," she explained. " Providing quality care is high and what families can afford to provide or what the subsidies are, it's just a very small margin."
Under Governor Jared Polis's stay-at-home order, licensed daycare operators were allowed to stay open. On March 30, the Governor Polis introduced the Colorado Emergency Child Care Collaborative. A program that sets up essential workers with child care, paid for by the state.
Now that the state is under a safer-at-home order, daycare centers are starting to open up, but under strict state regulations.
At the Pueblo YMCA, the rules are already being enforced. Janelle Andrews, President and CEO, says all staff must wear masks and gloves. Children 3 years and older must wear masks, and only 10 people can be in a room at a time.
"At the beginning and end of the day we used to combine different groups and classes, and now all of that has stopped," Andrews said. "We are also constantly sanitizing toys and play stations every hour."
Andrews also says their phones have been ringing off the hook, with people asking are they open and providing child care.
"We just opened up another classroom Monday, and we've been getting several calls so I think parents are heading back to work, people need service and kids need structure," she said.