A study from Penn State Harrisburg shows that the financial impact of COVID-19 on child care providers is more than $325 million across Pennsylvania.
On Friday, Dr. Philip M. Sirinides, the Director of the Institute of State and Regional Affairs (ISRA) and an associate professor in the School of Behavioral Sciences and Education at the Pennsylvania State University at Harrisburg, discussed the statewide financial impacts of the pandemic on child care providers between June 19 and Sept. 7. He was the keynote speaker for the Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce's Rise and Shine Early Learning Time! Virtual Briefing.
"The pandemic has emphasized how essential child care is to working families and employers in addition to highlighting the fragility of the entire child care system," said Sirindes. "It is also critical to keep providers informed about policy changes and opportunities for assistance."
The study determined that facilities expenses during the state shutdown totaled $56,645,443; the two-week floating payroll to rehire and pay staff totaled $63,405,309; implementing COVID-19 guidelines totaled $89,335,752; and slow reopening, assuming 83.3 percent enrollment, totaled $115,731,403. The total of four areas was $325,117,907. Another study shows that the estimated weekly cost of childcare is $290 per child.
To date, Sirinides said 90 percent of child care providers closed at some point and 423 never reopened.
"We certainly have a concern here," he said.
The study recommends financial assistant to resume operations, additional support in reopening to offset reduced enrollment and increased public awareness about the importantce of child care.
"The pandemic has emphasized how essential child care is to working families and employers in addition to highlighting the fragility of the entire child care system," said Sirindes. "It is also critical to keep providers informed about policy changes and opportunities for assistance.
Gene Barr, President & CEO of the PA Chamber of Business & Industry, said the organization identified the criminal justice system, lack of transportation and limited access to child care as barriers in the workforce across Pennsylvania. Some larger employers have child care, but many smaller businesses do not, he said.
A comprehensive study involving Pennsylvania with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce shows that absences and turnovers due to child care costs Pennsylvania employers $2.88 billion annually. Pennsylvania loses $591 million annually in tax revenue because of these absences and 10 percent of parents leave a job due to child care costs, said Barr.
"This is a serious issue," he said. "It is one that absolutely affects the workforce. It is one that we as a society must decide if we are going to be successful."
State Rep. Pat Harkins, D-1, who serves as Minority Chair of the House Labor & Industry Committee, said the issue is important.
"If we want a strong workforce, we need to invest in a solid education system," said Harkins. "A child who is educated well from an early age becomes productive members of the community. Parents need good quality education for their children. They need to be assured their children are properly cared for."