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Child care alliance: Industry facing crisis in Arizona due to pandemic

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PHOENIX — A Phoenix-based child care alliance published a policy brief Thursday detailing how the industry is facing a crisis in the state because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Arizona Early Childhood Alliance said COVID-19 has caused “insurmountable challenges” to the industry, including creating uncertainty over the ability for child care programs to remain open.

The brief called on state leaders, including Gov. Doug Ducey, to provide more funding in order to not deepen the crisis.

“Child care programs have been struggling throughout this pandemic to keep their doors open, reopen if they closed, and remain open,” Rebecca Gau, CEO of Stand for Children and co-chair of the AZECA Leadership Team, said.

“This important brief exposes the issues and highlights the data, and most importantly, provides policy recommendations for our elected officials to consider in addressing this looming disaster.”

A July survey from Child Care Resource & Referral found that about a third of licensed and regulated child care providers have been forced to close due to the pandemic.

Providers that have been able to remain open are serving just 38% of the total number of children they were prior to the start of the pandemic in March, according to the survey.

The pandemic has also affected staff, with nearly 40% of programs having to lay off or furlough staff.

“Child care is an essential infrastructure for parents to be able to go to work and without state support soon, this industry will collapse,” Gau said.

The brief asked for state leaders to grant the Department of Economic Security legislative spending authority of $88 million received from the coronavirus relief bill.

If done, DES would have maximum flexibility to be responsive to the evolving needs of child care programs throughout the ongoing crisis.

Arizona received the $88 million from the federal coronavirus relief bill through the Child Care Development Block Grant earmarked for child care relief.

Other policy recommendations included immediately opening the DES child care grant application, continuing to reimburse DES child care assistance providers at the January rate through the remainder of 2020 and waiving the payment of the child care licensing renewal fees for every licensed child care renewal for the next three years.

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