COVID-19 Child Care Crisis

Child Care is Essential

Child care is essential – for working families, children’s healthy development, and for North Carolina’s economic future. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the fact that our early education system is part of our state’s core infrastructure. But right now, it is on the verge of collapse. Stabilizing this essential industry must be a top priority.

Families rely on our early education system in order to keep working, and our state’s economy does too. COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on North Carolina’s child care industry. The lack of sufficient public investment has forced child care programs, educators and families into a series of impossible choices with heartbreaking consequences.

Child care providers have stepped up to stay open – often at considerable loss – to support essential workers and working families during this hazardous time. Child care programs operate on razor thin margins in the best of times. Now, with lower enrollment rates, less revenue, and necessary increased costs to keep children and staff safe, the math simply doesn’t work. North Carolina’s response and recovery from COVID-19 is not possible without affordable, reliable child care in all 100 counties.

Key Things to Know:
  • A survey from NAEYC shows that in North Carolina, 51% of programs expect that they will close within 6 months without additional public investment.
  • The majority of child care programs have reopened but are operating at high vacancy rates. There are currently 135,000 children attending licensed child care programs, which is just 55% of the number of children attending pre-COVID.
  • Child care teachers are the workforce behind the workforce. They are risking their own health to care for children, yet they remain woefully underpaid and 1 in 5 child care teachers doesn’t have health insurance.
  • High-quality child care was unavailable and unaffordable for far too many families before COVID-19, with tens of thousands of children on the waitlist for child care assistance and many communities already facing child care shortages. In the wake of this pandemic, it is critical to support families in finding and paying for child care so that they can begin to rebuild their own economic security.

Policy Brief on the Child Care Crisis

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Early Education COVID-19 Advocacy Toolkit

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Stories from the Field: Child Care Providers & Parents

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Infographic: The Road to High-Quality Early Education

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The Federal funding received through the CARES Act was a good start, but is not enough to stabilize the child care industry. North Carolina received $118 million in federal funding for child care relief through the federal CARES Act and some additional COVID-19 child care relief funding through the NC General Assembly. With this funding, DHHS/DCDEE initiated several urgently needed temporary initiatives which provided short-term support for the child care industry, including:

  • $34.7 emergency child care subsidy
  • $38.2M for teacher and staff bonuses
  • $80M for operational grants
  • $6.2M for PPE and cleaning supplies
  • $5 M to Smart Start for parent support and technical assistance
  • $10M to cover parent subsidy co-payments
  • $12M for additional PPE and cleaning supplies for rest of the year (projected)

Contact policymakers about this issue now!

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