Child Care Reopens, But Many Ask For State Aid After 'Financially Devastating' Closure

A stuffed toy looks out through the shades of a window onto the street at Play Academy in Medford, perhaps wondering when his friends will return. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
A stuffed toy looks out through the shades of a window onto the street at Play Academy in Medford, perhaps wondering when his friends will return. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Surviving the pandemic closures has been hard for a lot of child care providers.

"It was financially devastating," said Emma LaVecchia is the co-founder of Pine Village Preschool, which runs 10 daycare centers in the Boston metro area. To make it through, her company had to furlough most of the staff and ask for rent forgiveness. LaVecchia is planning to reopen in August but it’s going to be expensive. She estimates it could cost an additional $250,000.

"We’re going to end up doubling our glove use and cleaning supplies," she explained. "Then the schools are cleaned every night by a professional company, and they’ve increased their prices dramatically."

LaVecchia is considering a temporary tuition increase. But doing that is tricky, because she doesn't want to price parents out of coming. Still, there aren’t a lot of options for providers like her, who rely on parents paying out of pocket to cover costs, which is why many say they need more financial assistance to keep going.

The state approved 48 providers to reopen Monday, with another 100 given reopening dates. About 4% of child care operators recently told the state they won’t be able to reopen under the new health and safety restrictions. But the Massachusetts advocacy group Daycares United reports that about 1 in 5 of its members said they’ll have to close indefinitely.

"I felt like Governor Baker threw us under the bus," said Elaine Tutein, the owner of Little Treehouse Family Childcare in Roslindale.

Her frustration comes from the disparity in how the state has been supporting child care providers through the closure. The operators who serve low-income families through state subsidies have been continuing to receive those subsidy payments as if they were open, an estimated cost of $40 to $60 million a month.

The state is also offering them financial assistance to reopen with money from the federal CARES Act. But private pay providers like Tutein haven’t gotten any of that help.

"I don't want anyone to be hurting," she said. "But it's under the assumption that private pay has a lot of money. And we don't."

Officials with the state say they understand the frustration.

"This is an issue of, with limited dollars, making the most strategic decisions possible," said Samantha Aigner-Treworgy, the commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care. "And knowing that the industry as a whole is impacted but these dollars are not going to allow us to address the full need."

That’s why the state is focusing on providers who serve low-income families. Because if the child care industry does end up shrinking, those families would be left with the fewest options.

Private pay providers, like Elaine Tutein, say while they understand the argument, the policy still feels hurtful.

"I feel like I still provide something really valuable to the community. And if I had to shut down, there would be a hole in our community," she said.

A factor that she believes should also be taken into consideration.


Carrie Jung Senior Reporter, Education
Carrie is a senior education reporter.



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