Child care providers keep working amid COVID-19 crisis; call for government assistance

Things look a little different around Nikasia Childcare in Oakland these days. First, there’s only three kids, down from the usual 20. Then, there’s the twice-a-day temperature checks and constant hand washing and cleaning.

“It’s kind of different, it’s quiet,” said Asia Lewis, who works at the center. “You know, we’re just waiting for it to be over.”

Lewis is one of the thousands of childcare providers in California trying to adjust to new mandates and frankly survive during the uncertainty of the Coronavirus pandemic. While schools remain closed, Governor Newsom declared child care an “essential service.” It’s a critical responsibility made more difficult by circumstance. As many of us know, finding supplies like disinfectant wipes is now a daunting task.

“There’s no reason for you to go buy 600 bleaches, especially older people, day care centers, medical centers: those are things we need to stay open,” said Lewis. “If you take those things, we have to close our doors.”

Some daycares and family child care homes have closed out of an abundance of caution.

Ana Andrade cares for about 16 children at Wolf Pack Child Care in Marin County. She shut her doors until next month. 

“I have no idea which families are going to come back on April 7,” said Andrade. “I have no idea what my income is going to be. It’s all up in the air.”

Some facilities remain open, but stand on the verge of a financial crisis. 

The state legislature approved funding to allow providers to keep receiving subsidies for enrolled low-income children. But, not everyone receives those checks. 

KTVU spoke with a woman who runs a childcare home in the peninsula. She relies completely on private parent payments, but with many now working from home, her attendance is at zero.

“I fear that now, now that COVID-19, we’re going to be in an even more childcare shortage after the crisis is all done,” said the provider, who wanted to remain anonymous.

That’s because without parents to pay, she expects many sites will be forced to close. In fact, a survey by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) shows 30% of providers said they would not survive a closure of more than two weeks without “significant public investment.”  

“The swift blunt force pandemic has been devastating to our field, we estimate that by the end of this week, 750,000 early childhood educators will be unemployed,” said Rhian Allvin, the CEO of NAEYC.

That’s why NAEYC and other organizations representing those in childcare have launched petitions and sent letters to local, state and federal governments asking for help. 

“We are not considered small businesses, and so we do not qualify for unemployment insurance and so far we don’t’ qualify for any of the state or local or national emergency funds,” said the homecare provider in the peninsula.  

Added to the money issues, some centers say they’re facing criticism for staying open while schools remain closed.

Despite all of this, the providers we spoke to say they’re focused on one thing: caring for these children.

“We’re here for you. We want to provide the care for the children, we take the risks we take because we love what we do.”