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Professor: Pandemic Costs Child Care Providers And Families

Donnie Nunley
Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

A researcher at the University of Illinois recently showed how child care providers have been hurt financially by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Elizabeth Powers is an economist at the Institute of Government and Public Affairs. She says measures put in place to slow COVID-19 reduced revenues for childcare centers and  restricted the number of slots that were available to families.

“Losing 25% to 33 % of their capacity of kids that were attending, on net, they might see a change their balance sheet anywhere up to 50%,” she said.

She says then costs rose for the providers when some of the original restrictions were lifted and they were allowed to reopen. That’s because social distancing rules cut down the number of children they could take care of, along withadded new staffing and cleaning costs.

Powers says she has not seen studies specific to the average amount of money child care providers have lost, so she’s offering a ball park estimate.

For parents, there were economic hardships, too.

She said that initially,  many parents had to make a decision about whether to continue paying for care just to keep a spot at their child care facility, which was a financial hardship.

“We've had the unemployment, the massive unemployment, and that's reduced the number of families that can afford to pay for childcare, and then we’ve got these capacity restrictions that have made it difficult for working parents to find childcare in many  areas,” she said

Meanwhile, a new crisis has emerged for working parents. Many need to have children taught at home during the work day as the spread of COVID-19 led many schools to offer remote-only learning this fall. 

Copyright 2021 NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS. To see more, visit NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS.

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is the NPR Illinois News Editor and a lead editor of Illinois Issues' feature articles, working with freelance writers, and is curator of the Equity blog. Maureen joined the staff in 1998 as projects editor. Previously, she worked at three Illinois daily newspapers, most recently the suburban Chicago-based Daily Herald, where she served stints as an education reporter and copy editor. She graduated in 1985 with a bachelor's in journalism. She also has a master's degree in English from the University of Illinois at Springfield.