SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. (AP) - The coronavirus has devastated many types of businesses, and a new study in Nebraska shows just how hard the pandemic has hit child care centers.
The Scottsbluff Star-Herald cited a new legislative study that found 231 licensed child care providers across the state have closed permanently since the pandemic began. Hundreds more shuttered temporarily, and more than half of operators said they would close permanently without further government financial assistance.
At Golden Child Development Center in Mitchell, operator JoAnne Golden is licensed for 50 children. On some days, she has just five.
The study suggests that facility is among the lucky ones.
Nebraska ranks highest in the nation for households with children where both parents work. Lawmakers are concerned, said state Sen. John Stinner of Gering. His resolution introduced last year read that ensuring "all families and children have equitable access to affordable, high-quality care is key to both the healthy growth and development of Nebraska's children as well as the economic vitality and prosperity of communities and the state."
Stinner's resolution funded the study. It found that 12 Nebraska counties now have no licensed childcare providers.
At Kids R Us in Scottsbluff, owner Danielle Self closed her business for a week in March. At that time, she had about 105 children and 33 staff members. When she opened a week later, she had 45 kids in the program. She had to reduce her staff to eight. Things have turned around a bit - the center is back got 60 children and 16 staff members.
"I think that's the new normal," Self said. "I'm hoping we're still going up (with enrollment). I need to peak and then see if we can maintain the peak."
Self and Golden both said their income dropped by 50%. The legislative study, which included survey data from the Buffett Early Childhood Institute, found that about 25% of child care providers' incomes fell by at least half.
The study found that about half of Nebraska's parents had to miss work because of child care issues. Another 25% had to depend on family, friends, or neighbors. About 43% reduced their working hours to care for children.