CLEVELAND — The state of Ohio is throwing a lifeline to public and private day cares to help offset the cost of reopening facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most of them have been forced to limit capacity to around 50%, so they are not only generating less revenue, they are facing increased costs to operate safely.
The director at Horizon Education Centers told News 5 that the profit margin for day cares is minimal and to hit the mark they need to be operating at 90% capacity.
Right now, they’re nowhere close to having the children they need to just break even.
With 12 daycare facilities in Cuyahoga and Lorain counties, the financial fallout from the Coronavirus has cut deep at Horizon.
“We chose to open slow,” said David Smith.
Because of COVID-19, enrollment system-wide is capped at about 500, down from the 1,600 children typically served.
“We’re all in for a rough patch. Normal ratios give us a fighting chance,” said Smith.
To help day cares with the dramatic dip, the State of Ohio is doling out $31 million this month. The funds from the CARES Act not only help keep the lights on but also offset the cost of COVID-related safety gear.
“Does that mean we’re breaking even? No. It means we are losing less money,” said Smith.
So far, Horizon has received $130,000.
However, Smith is cautiously looking ahead to August when the daycare dollars dry up.
“We need to have either more support or be at ratios August 1 or we will look at shutting down centers,” said Smith.
Right now, the Ohio Resource and Referral Association is having conversations with Governor Mike DeWine with that target August date in mind.
“We’d like to reopen at full capacity,” said Todd Barnhouse with the Ohio Resource and Referral Association.
That’s easier said than done. Barnhouse said many day cares are struggling to secure the staff they need to open additional classrooms.
“It was a struggle prior to entering this,” said Barnhouse.
With more than 700 health and safety guidelines to follow each day, Barnhouse believes day cares are more than capable to safely return to full capacity.
“They’re used to these types of things and the safety of our children,” said Barnhouse.
In the meantime, the state is gearing up to distribute another $30 million to both private and public daycare facilities in July.
“This is going to turn into a real crisis if someone doesn’t figure something out about it,” said Smith.