This is a sobering reality for Tammy Gibson, Director of Central United Methodist Church preKindergarten in Haywood County. She said it was very difficult to close her center in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but she ultimately felt she had no choice. “I have so many staff with different risk factors. There was just no way we could safely stay open.”
That difficult decision means that she and her teachers are facing real financial hardship. She said, “All of my teachers are trying to figure it out financially. They are struggling. If you get behind paying your bills, it is so much harder.”
When asked about her own experience, Tammy shared, “It has been so hard for my family because I don’t have income to contribute to our bills. I still haven’t been able to get unemployment. My daughter is getting married in August and we are not sure what to do. We want to keep things rolling, but it is a real struggle. We are cutting back every way we can, buying the necessities only. We are just trying to keep our lights on.”
Four of Tammy’s teachers have been getting salary supplements from the Child Care WAGE$® Program for many years. The fact that these supplements will continue during this crisis is a bright spot for her staff.
According to Tammy, “They are going to be so grateful to have these payments. It has been so hard on them and they will need this money just to meet basic, fundamental needs. It means so much. WAGE$ is a great program. Staff wait on the money to help pay bills. They appreciate it a lot.” As a previous participant, Tammy said WAGE$ helped her finish school and now that her county has a new income cap, she has applied to join the program again.
Tammy hopes that her center may be one of the lucky ones that can reopen with church support. She is staying in touch with her staff as they all face this challenge together. She said, “My center has not experienced a lot of turnover and many of my teachers have worked with me for years. We are more than coworkers; we are friends and family. I hope they can come back.”