Midland County’s Answer to the Childcare Challenge

COVID-19 is putting child care providers out of business, which means negative economic impact for all.
By Amy DeGeer Roten

The child care industry has been hit hard by COVID-19. As an industry nationwide, it lost 370,000 jobs between February and April 2020, less than half of which have been recovered as of June. The impact affects our economy and touches everyone.

An Existing Problem Made Worse

A recent survey by the American Enterprise Institute found that 45% of parents with young children who used child care before the pandemic said it was “somewhat difficult” or “very difficult” to meet their current child care needs. By late July 2020, more than two in five families who used child care before the pandemic had none.

While child care centers and providers have been allowed to remain open for essential workers, many kids were pulled out of care due to public health concerns. Providers were left with a reduced headcount of more than 50%. Reduced headcount means reduced revenue.

COVID-19 protocols for child care providers has created time and capital challenges. tal. Simultaneously, daycare expenses went up as providers worked to follow Executive Orders and implement social distancing strategies, intense cleaning and disinfection efforts, modified drop off and pick up procedures, new screening procedures, and new equipment. The timely and expensive protocols combined with reduced customers have put a good percentage of home-operated daycare providers in Midland out of business for good.

In a nutshell, for an industry with slim pre-COVID margins, the pandemic has made it tenuous to continue operating. “Child care providers simply have limited capacity,” explained Midland County Great Start Collaborative Director Micki Gibbs.

Today, the child care industry has partially recovered but it continues to be unstable. Working parents need a trusted provider to care for the most important thing in their lives: their kids. Child care options are minimal as the providers that are still operating do not have vacancies. Without child care, working parents may need to quit their job or take reduced hours.

Employers feel the impact, as well. Lack of child care negatively affects employee retention and lowers business productivity. Losing employees, for any reason, is expensive and can cost the employer approximately 1.5–2x the employee’s annual salary for hourly workers. Furthermore, it increases stress and anxiety, which no employer wants for their workforce.

Helpful Resources and Solutions

For resources and potential solutions, Gibbs and The Midland County Great Start Collaborative can help by connecting both employers and employees to child care providers. It’s is a network of service providers, parents, businesses, community leaders, and educators who work together to provide coordinated support for families of children from birth through age five.

An important component of the Great Start System in Midland County is the Parent Coalition, which oversees the planning, implementation, collaboration, and ongoing improvement of programs and services to children in our area.

For businesses interested in organizing a child care provider for multiple employees, Gibbs should be the first phone call. “If a business has a systemic employee retention problem rooted in child care, such as a need for after-hour child care, it can be very complex and difficult to set up,” Gibbs said.

For example, if an employer has five employees who all need after-hours child care, she can help find a child care provider to address that need. To develop a solution, Gibbs will need employers to have the following information ready to share, including but not limited to:

  • Affordability: Wwhat can employees afford – will the company subsidize child care?
  • Location: Mile radius – proximity to the employer, is onsite child care at the employer an option?
  • Hours of Operation: Aare second or third shift accommodations needed?
  • Transportation: Is it a barrier to employees?

For individuals or employers searching for child care, check out the list of providers on the Central Resource Center (CNC). They have resources for parents, guardians, and child care providers in the central part of Michigan and will assist families with finding quality, licensed child care. You can also call Gibbs directly for assistance.

For child care providers, the CNC offers training to all licensed providers including aide and relative providers, family homes, group homes, and centers.

Looking ahead, it is clear that COVID-19 has changed child care for families and businesses forever. “Everyone’s doing their best right now to get through this. When it all settles, it won’t look the same,” Gibbs said.

To learn more about setting up child care for employees or finding a provider for your children, call Micki Gibbs at Midland County Great Start Collaborative, Midland County Educational Service Agency, phone (989) 492-7702 x1173.

To learn more about how the MBA is supporting business with workforce challenges, visit mbami.org

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