Perry Preschool and Child Care has managed to stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic to serve families who still need it, though the number of children at the center has decreased significantly.
(Jeanie Lindsay/IPB News)
Child care is an essential service for many families, and some providers have been forced to close by the pandemic while others worry about what future demand will look like as businesses begin reopening their doors.
A study from 2018 says Indiana loses out on about $1.1 billion of economic activity a year due to a lack of child care. And Early Learning Indiana CEO Maureen Weber says the COVID-19 pandemic could be catastrophic for that number without enough support.
"We can certainly expect that to grow exponentially if we don't make sure we sustain this industry during this challenge," she says.
Weber says at the height of the state's closure, about a third of licensed providers were closed, and state grants and other support have acted as a lifeline for those that have remained open.
But enrollment is key. Many providers wonder whether or not families will come back if and when child care centers reopen, or whether they'll have enough space to fit in kids who need a spot if demand skyrockets.
"The question really is all around that balance of how quickly things reopen and parents return," Weber says.
Some families may not return because parents are still working from home, can't afford it or they're concerned about their child's safety. But Weber encourages families to reach out and learn what safety measures have been put in place, or support local providers however they can.
In the meantime, Early Learning Indiana has partnered with the Lilly Endowment to offer additional grant support. This week they announced a more than $15 million grant fund for child care providers across the state.
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