By Jennifer Gioia, CCSA Communications Manager
In mid-March, North Carolina launched emergency child care for essential workers with procedures for health and safety precautions. Child care centers and family child care homes stepped up to play a critical role for the state as it dealt with the COVID-19 crisis. Many signed up so the health care workforce and other essential personnel would have a safe and nurturing environment for their children while they went to work.
Child Care Services Association (CCSA) launched the CCSA COVID-19 Relief Fund as a collaborative effort with Smart Start and local partnerships to thank our child care programs and provide additional funds during this crucial time. We want to help programs provide the highest quality early learning experience for our state’s youngest children.
Approximately 1,000 child care programs applied for aid from the CCSA COVID-19 Relief Fund, (the only COVID-19 relief fund designated explicitly for child care programs statewide) during its first round of funding. But the need is still great. More than 3,000 child care programs were open and serving children of essential workers as of early May, and even more programs will open now that North Carolina has started Phase I of its plan to reopen.
“This crisis has amplified significant needs, and protecting families ― and the child care programs on which they depend ― has never been more urgent,” said Jim Hansen, PNC regional president for Eastern Carolinas. The PNC Foundation contributed a $100,000 grant to the CCSA COVID-19 Relief Fund. “Child care programs represent a critical resource for essential workers and their families, and this grant will help make these programs more accessible,” said Hansen.
Our Work is Not Yet Done
COVID-19 has left child care programs to operate in extreme circumstances while providing safe and loving care to children. During the shelter-in-place order, child care programs in North Carolina served approximately 25% of the number of children they would normally; this made it financially difficult for programs to continue operating without sustained income. For most child care programs, even small grants will help them safely care for children.
“This crisis has financially impacted child care programs and their ability to get the supplies they need to keep children safe,” stated Smart Start Interim President Donna White. “This relief fund is critical to helping programs that are open care for the children of front-line workers and helping ensure that all programs are able to reopen on the other side of this ― a thriving child care industry will be critical to North Carolina’s recovery.”
As North Carolina re-opens in stages and the nation slowly ramps up employment levels, the business of child care will face new challenges, also considering North Carolina K-12 schools are closed for the remainder of the school year. The state and federal guidelines for child care during the pandemic aren’t always easy in a child care setting. Young children don’t social distance, especially during traumatic times. Babies can’t cover their sneezes. And right now, most child care programs are working hard to deep clean frequently to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their classrooms.
“We are so grateful to the PNC Foundation for its generosity,” said CCSA President Marsha Basloe. “The PNC Foundation’s philanthropic mission focuses on early childhood education and community and economic development ― causes that are foundational to the work of CCSA and the relief efforts we are providing.”
Support our child care heroes. It’s not too late. We will continue to provide support to our child care community. You can donate to the CCSA COVID-19 Relief Fund today. Any amount, big or small, can directly help early childhood educators and workers across our state best care for our children.