Child care deemed essential but programs struggle to stay open

Posted at 4:28 PM, Mar 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-27 08:33:25-04

BOISE, Idaho — Even before coronavirus, Idahoans had limited child care options. Now more programs are temporarily shutting down, and without support, they might stay that way.

As of Thursday, 150 child care programs around the state closed their doors.

“That’s impacting about 5,000 children right now," said executive director of Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children Beth Oppenheimer.

Child care programs are considered essential businesses and can remain operational though many are shutting down. The centers remain hopeful it will be a temporary closure.

“I have talked to some of our child care providers who have chosen to close because of health and safety risks not only to their teachers but also to the children and families in their care but again when we see a lot of these child care businesses close the impact this can have on the future of them being able to open is a real struggle," said Oppenheimer.

Child care options also help essential workers focus on the job at hand.

“Nurses and doctors and health care providers and even the people that do the maintenance in the hospital; having child care for them to take part of the burden off of them is critical," said Governor Brad Little at a press conference earlier in the week.

Enrollment is lower than usual at many facilities, so there are still seats available for children, but numbers can’t be as high as they once were for obvious safety reasons.

Oppenheimer hopes to see state and federal financial resources in place to make sure our already limited options don’t shut their doors for good.

“A lot of our programs don’t have the reserves on hand just to cover basic operating costs so that if they do have financial support during the closures whether they choose to or not, they’re in a position to open back up when this is over," said Oppenheimer.

Anyone that is looking for child care they can call 2-1-1 to hear who is open with availability in your area.