Montgomery County News, Arkansas -

Arkansas early childhood organizations call for immediate support

Raise Alarms about Child Care Sector’s Safety and Long-Term Viability

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.  – Early childhood advocates today called for immediate support to protect Arkansas’s child care sector during and after the coronavirus pandemic. Currently, more than half of the state’s 2,000 child care providers remain open, yet many are facing steeply declining enrollments and a persistent lack of access to cleaning supplies, medical equipment and essential food items. Without assistance, programs may be forced to close permanently, with long-term ramifications to Arkansas’s economy.

“Before the coronavirus hit, our state’s child care providers were operating on razor thin margins,” said Jeff Dyer, executive director of the Arkansas Early Childhood Association. “If we don’t provide significant public investment and support, they may soon have to shutter their doors, leaving Arkansans out of work and families without adequate care options.”  

A 2019 report from the Committee for Economic Development showed child care has a $702-million impact on Arkansas’s economy. In total, it supports more than 17,800 jobs, a $296.8-million payroll and 137,000 children. According to a recent survey by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, many of the state’s child care centers and homes will not be able to survive COVID-19 closures. As of March 25, 33 percent of programs had lost income due to families’ inability to pay. 

In March, the Arkansas Department of Human Services increased allocations for child care providers receiving Child Care and Development Block Grant funds. Licensed programs that do not have a federal subsidy agreement have received limited relief from the state. To help child care centers and family child care homes survive, organizations including the Arkansas Advocates for Children and FamiliesArkansas Association for Infant Mental HealthArkansas Campaign for Grade-Level ReadingArkansas Chapter, American Academy of PediatricsArkansas Early Childhood AssociationCommunities UnlimitedForwARd Arkansas; and HOPE Credit Union are calling for the state to:

●      Coordinate access to limited Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) and Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS)-required supplies (e.g., cleaning products, thermometers) to keep workers and the children they serve safe 

●      Ease the process for programs to purchase essential food items at grocery stores

●      Support existing programs instead of encouraging pop-up child care in the private industry

●      Provide financial supports to licensed providers to meet current ADH/DHS guidelines on group size and/or reductions in enrollment 

●      Implement a grant or loan program, to be managed by Community Development Financial Institutions, with $10,000 available per licensed provider to reopen or meet shortfalls caused by drops in attendance

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