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New Hampshire faces child care challenges

(WCAX)
Published: May. 8, 2020 at 4:43 PM EDT
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The child care industry as a whole is facing challenges that began well before the current pandemic. That includes workforce issues and overall revenue streams.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu has made a point to talk about how essential child care workers are during this current crisis. New Hampshire is taking steps to make sure kids have care, but, clearly, more work needs to be done.

They are the people who take care of the kids of essential workers.

"Without us, a lot of the families wouldn't be able to go to work. So, I think it is finally time that child care is recognized for what we are and we are not just babysitters," said Jennifer Hosmer of the Children's Center of the Upper Valley.

But educators at the Children's Center of the Upper Valley say being a day care provider doesn't exactly make ends meet.

"It is very hard to live off of as it is, prior to COVID-19," Hosmer said.

Recently, the state of New Hampshire took steps to increase their pay $5 per hour. The Lebanon facility is matching that because they say otherwise, staff would stay home and collect unemployment.

"We had to give that $10 an hour hazard pay increase to make it more enticing for our employees to actually stay here and work so that we could remain open for our essential community," Hosmer said.

Payroll is just one dent in the bottom line. In order to comply with CDC guidelines, only 10 people are permitted per room, which means the facility has about half the kids they normally would.

They are issues facing child care centers across the region.

"If this pandemic is going to be with us for a while, we need to figure out a long-term plan," said Linda Tremblay of Ready Set Grow in Claremont.

Ready Set Grow is currently operating at a loss. The facility is licensed for more than 100 kids but they currently have 28. Beginning Monday, the facility is shutting down for three weeks until the end of New Hampshire's current stay-at-home order. That means the kids and their parents-- health care workers, corrections staff and grocery store employees-- will be forced to make other arrangements.

Reporter Adam Sullivan: So what happens next week for those people?

Linda Tremblay: I wish I knew. Unfortunately, if we are closed, they are probably going to have to take a leave from their jobs.

New Hampshire is fast-tracking emergency licenses to help fill the void. And as the demand increases with more people returning to work, Governor Sununu says he's confident the state will be able to meet that demand. The state is also covering the cost of cleaning supplies and PPE.

"I'm excited that finally, people are paying attention to child care and how important it is but I think that child care centers whether large or small, they need some help with funding," Tremblay said.

Money is obviously a concern for parents, as well. WCAX News spoke with several who declined to go on camera but said it simply does not make sense for them to send their kids to day care because they don't make enough money in their current jobs.

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