As child care centers in Massachusetts continue to struggle to meet the new COVID-19 guidelines for reopening, a congresswoman has introduced a new bill to financially assist them.
Somerville child care center owner Sarah Sian is one of the thousands of providers across the state who has been hit hard financially after being closed due to the pandemic.
"We operate on the smallest of financial margins at the best of times," Sian said Tuesday.
Sian is planning to reopen but said doing so under the current Early Education and Care requirements mean a 50% enrollment drop with a 50% revenue loss.
"We will begin operating again at a loss of tens of thousands of dollars every month," explained Sian. "At that rate, we will burn through our reserves and potentially close our doors in a few months."
That's part of the reason why U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark (MA-5) on Tuesday introduced a $10 billion recovery bill, titled the Child Care is Infrastructure Act, intended to help child care facilities safely reopen amid the pandemic. The funds would help facilities pay for staff and personal protective equipment as they resume operations.
"We are asking an industry that's struggling to stay afloat to do even more with less," Clark said.
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Providers and parents say while the EEC has tried to help ease the financial burden somewhat by reducing new preschool staff to child ratios from 2:10 to 1:10 late last week, it may not be realistic for many providers.
"Children under 5 really need to have two teachers. There's no way to change diapers, to feed children, to teach them, read books and only having one adult present," said Cambridge family child care provider Jessica De Jesus Acevedo.
Parents about to send their children back to day cares are also expressing concerns.
"I can see the room would be chaos walking in. Parents aren't going to feel comfortable with one adult to that many kids, especially at drop off and pick up times. It just doesn't seem feasible," said parent Katie Ring.
The Childcare is Infrastructure Act will still need to be approved in the House and Senate for providers to take advantage of the funding.