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Northeast Ohio daycare providers continue pandemic related struggle

New federal daycare help started on Dec. 1
N.E. Ohio day care providers continue pandemic related struggle
Posted at 9:32 PM, Dec 08, 2021

CLEVELAND — Erin Lizak and her husband are Northeast Ohio parents who are counting on their daycare provider to stay open during the ongoing pandemic but are aware some facilities are feeling the financial strain as we head into 2022.

Lizak said fortunately her provider, Children First of Cleveland has stayed strong despite some staffing challenges.

“It’s absolutely imperative, I have to have childcare in order to be able to continue going to work every single day," Lizak said. “Without Children First, either myself or my husband would have to leave the workforce in order to watch our children."

Joan Hamm, Executive Director of Children First of Cleveland, told News 5 her agency increased wages six months ago but said it's still tough to maintain a full staff. Hamm said staffing has her facility operating at 60% of its child capacity.

“I’ve run ads previously and I’ve gotten hundreds of resumes, and this time I only got three resumes," Hamm said. “It’s been very difficult to find people, let alone qualified people who have expertise in working with young children.”

“You have to maintain the state of Set-up to Quality ratios, so you can’t take more kids because you don’t have enough staff. And so it’s kind of a double-edged sword.”

Kara Porter, Vice President of Strategy with Starting Point, told News 5 her childcare referral and resource agency has seen plenty of child care facilities in distress.

Porter outlined a Nov. 2021 survey from Action for Children showed 56% of the more than 300 central Ohio daycare's that responded aren't meeting their needed monthly revenue, with 17% concerned they won't remain open within three months.

“In Northeast Ohio, we do see similar numbers to what Action for Children revealed in their report," Porter said. “It's very real when you have issues with enrollment being down, you have issues with higher wages being available in other sectors.”

Porter said she hopes new federal pandemic assistance dollars released by the State of Ohio on Dec. 1 will help local daycares with operating expenses and staffing recruitment and retention issues, but she believes additional federal help will be needed in 2022.

“These problems are not necessarily going away and we would definitely want more funding allocated to child care programs here in our community," Porter said. “COVID has revealed challenges in the child care system that have been intensified by the pandemic.”

Porter pointed to Starting Pointresources and information that can help parents find the child care that they need during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Lizak believes wages for daycare employees much grow further in the coming year.

“Quite frankly it’s not enough, so we see ourselves losing excellent childcare providers to other places like Target, Walmart, and Amazon because typically they can pay their team members more than childcare facilities are able to pay," Lizak said.

“Definitively assistance is going to be needed in childcare, in the childcare system, for years and years to come.”