Childcare providers across the state are urging Gov. Tom Wolf and local legislators to reverse funding cuts that are threatening their ability to survive.
During a virtual press conference held in late October by Start Strong PA, providers from the Greater Philadelphia region addressed how the cuts are impacting their businesses.
“We’re here to talk about the urgent need for the Wolf administration to reverse the shortsighted policy that now makes subsidy payments to child care providers based on their current attendance instead of their pre-COVID enrollment,” said Mary Graham, executive director of the Children’s Village.
Since the COVID shutdown, Pennsylvania’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) had been making child care subsidy payments to providers based on the March enrollment figures in order to stabilize the sector and ensure provider capacity as parents return to work. As of Sept. 1, OCDEL shifted to reimbursing providers based on actual attendance, resulting in decreased subsidy payments to providers. Now providers are saying this change is threatening their ability to operate.
A sampling of more than 50 regional child care providers showed that there has been a loss of more than $1.4 million in state funding in the month of September. Leslie Spina, owner of the Northeast Philadelphia-based Kinder Academy has lost $60,000 this month due to the cuts.
“There is no possibility that Kinder Academy will be open this time next year or even six months from now without an immediate change to these guidelines,” Spina said. She said the state’s child care centers cannot survive unless if stakeholders do not step forward and do the right thing. “We are not asking for a hand out,” Spina said. “We’re asking for our legislators to make the decision that it matters that we continue operating, so that when we are on the other side of COVID, everybody else can go back to work.” Aliyah Brown, the director of Brightside Academy is also concerned about her ability to keep the business operational.
“If this policy is not reversed I am confident my center cannot stay open,” said Brown, whose facility is located in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood. “Our state payment dropped by nearly $18,000 in one month. This just isn’t sustainable. Without my center, this community would not only just lose a business, they will lose a place that parents can depend on. Philadelphia would lose one of the far too few high quality early learning centers in this city’s low income neighborhood.”
Damaris Alvarado, CEO of the Children’s Playhouse and Cookie’s Day Care Center, said her centers have been severely impacted due to the loss of the subsidy funding. Her South Philadelphia-based centers currently enroll 200 students, which is 72% of their normal capacity rate. Alvarado faces the possibility of having to close one of her centers, which primarily serve immigrants.
“My staff and I serve as a lifeline to them and their children by connecting them to other resources that are available in the community,” she said. “The impact of COVID has already hit these families extremely hard. The closure of our high quality program — the only one in our community — will cause additional and unnecessary hardship to many families and children that depend on us.”
Over 300 providers in PA have already closed permanently and 1,000+ more are at risk of closure.