Forced to close for months, childcare providers across the state say they may not make it to the other side.
"It's taking a pandemic, perhaps, to really understand how important it is," said State Senator Judy Schwank.
Only around 1000 providers across the commonwealth have been allowed to stay open, about 20%. "When a child is forced to change child care centers, that could have a huge disruption to their education and learning and their development," said Laura Heckart, Director of Hildebrandt Learning Center in Reading.
The other 80 percent say even if they reopen, their enrollment will drop significantly. "We are re-opening at a loss per month of at least $55,000 because only 35 of 135 children are coming back," said Betty Flaherty, Executive Directory at Shady Lane School in Pittsburg.
Which means staff will be laid off at time when providers need more staff for safety. "The health screening and drop off procedures require additional staffing," said Heckart.
"We need $147 million more in funds beyond the CARES Act," said Donna Cooper, Executive Director at Public Citizens for Children and Youth.
Many providers belong to small banks and were unable to get a PPP loan in time, and those who were say they're about to run out anyway. “So that doesn't help us as we go back," said Flaherty.
Without support, the state stands to lose up to a third of daycares, which can also slow economic recovery for parents and non-parents alike.
"All along I've had parents calling and saying when are you opening I need to get these kids out from under me. I'm trying to work from home and I can't watch four kids working from home," said Oriana Hood, Owner of Pembroke Pee Wee’s in Freemansburg.
"We cannot fully reopen our economy effectively if workers cannot be fully productive, and workers cannot be fully productive without safe and healthy options for childcare," said Dr. Laura Crispin, an Economist with St. Joseph’s University.