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Professor: Pandemic Costs Child Care Providers And Families

Donnie Nunley
Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

A researcher at the University of Illinois recently showed how child care providers have been hurt financially by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Elizabeth Powers is an economist at the Institute of Government and Public Affairs. She says measures put in place to slow COVID-19 reduced revenues for childcare centers and  restricted the number of slots that were available to families.

“Losing 25% to 33 % of their capacity of kids that were attending, on net, they might see a change their balance sheet anywhere up to 50%,” she said.

She says then costs rose for the providers when some of the original restrictions were lifted and they were allowed to reopen. That’s because social distancing rules cut down the number of children they could take care of, along withadded new staffing and cleaning costs.

Powers says she has not seen studies specific to the average amount of money child care providers have lost, so she’s offering a ball park estimate.

For parents, there were economic hardships, too.

She said that initially,  many parents had to make a decision about whether to continue paying for care just to keep a spot at their child care facility, which was a financial hardship.

“We've had the unemployment, the massive unemployment, and that's reduced the number of families that can afford to pay for childcare, and then we’ve got these capacity restrictions that have made it difficult for working parents to find childcare in many  areas,” she said

Meanwhile, a new crisis has emerged for working parents. Many need to have children taught at home during the work day as the spread of COVID-19 led many schools to offer remote-only learning this fall. 

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is news editor and equity and justice beat reporter for NPR Illinois, where she has been on the staff since 2014 after Illinois Issues magazine’s merger with the station. She joined the magazine’s staff in 1998 as projects editor and became managing editor in 2003. Prior to coming to the University of Illinois Springfield, she was an education reporter and copy editor at three local newspapers, including the suburban Chicago Daily Herald, She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University and a master’s degree in English from UIS.
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