COLORADO SPRINGS — Child care industry experts fear we could be on the verge of a crisis as a growing number of day cares across the country and here in Colorado consider closing their doors permanently. News5 spoke with local experts to find out what's happening and why there's still hope for a rebound.
According to local child care experts, in El Paso County alone there are more than 170,000 families who have children and in many cases child care is crucial for them to be able to work. It's why experts believe the survival of day care programs is so important for the future of our economy.
This fall the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact daily life, leaving many day care leaders across the country with no other choice than to close their doors. After 30 years of helping generations of families in Massachusetts, The Caring Place is one of those day cares permanently closing.
"It's not just about business, if we could run it at a $10,000 loss we would, but we can't," said Father Stephen Lundrigan of Annunciation Parish, who runs The Caring Place.
Child care industry experts say Colorado has seen plenty of day cares who have had to make the same decision.
"About 10% of all child care providers in Colorado have had to close their doors, others are facing increased disruptions," said VP of Early Childhood and Policy Initiatives for Colorado Children's Campaign.
By some estimates, a staggering 50% of child care providers throughout the country could close permanently by the end of the year. A big reason is capacity limits due to COVID-19 safety procedures. A limited enrollment means limited revenue. Also, in many cases, child care providers lack of public funding.
"So it's vital it's vital that we're getting State funds to early childhood it's vital that federal funds are coming to Early Childhood because we cannot rely on families to have to fill this gap," said Program Manager at Alliance For Kids, El Paso County's Early Childhood Council.
She's seen the impact of the pandemic on families and day care providers first hand.
"Right now there are a lot of homes that have children 11, 12 years old trying to balance remote learning and caring for their younger siblings. This really has the potential impact to set up some pretty horrible situations due to lack of supervision," said Hurtado.
Taking calls daily, she's trying to help early childhood programs in El Paso County stay open. But she fears what could happen if relief doesn't arrive soon.
"If there isn't action taken the bottom is going to fall out. We're going to start to see programs shut their doors and we're going to start to see a lower level of access," said Hurtado.
With a call to action for Congress and Colorado's state lawmakers, those in the child care sector believe they are a key pillar in our nation's ability to rebound economically from the coronavirus.
"For the economy to recover people need to be able to get back to work and with almost two-thirds of all Colorado children having all their parents in the workforce Child Care is essential for economic recovery," said Jaeger.
As we wait to see if lawmakers provide that much-needed financial relief, there are some ways you can help locally including making donations providing cleaning supplies, personal protective equipment and other things to help to cover daily costs for our day cares.
The Pikes Peak United Way is an organization that can help facilitate these donations.