AUGUSTA, Maine — Childcare advocates across the state penned a letter to Governor Janet Mills and other state officials, asking them to consider their recommendations surrounding daycare centers and the coronavirus outbreak; adding, if something isn't done soon, some centers might not open again.
"We really need to support and fund childcare right now." Tara Williams said. Williams is the Executive Director of the Maine Association for the Education of Young Children.
She and other childcare leaders felt it was essential to stand up and speak out in light of new temporary guidelines provided by the state surrounding how childcare providers should handle the Coronavirus outbreak.
"What our child care center directors and owners are saying is they’re not hearing clear guidance on whether to close," Williams said. "So there’s a lot of stress and frustration around how to make that decision and many are feeling that if their school districts are closed then they should be closing as well."
Now, Williams said daycare providers across the state are faced with a tough decision – do I leave my doors open and risk spreading the virus? Or do I close them and risk losing my business?
"For some, they’ve informed us they've been looking at their financial stability and two, three weeks they can do," Williams said. "If it gets to four or five they’re looking at permanent closure."
It’s the reality for Terri Crocker who owns Creative Play Childcare in Bath and made the decision earlier this week to close her doors until further notice. She said it's not worth the risk of possibly spreading the virus further, however now she's not sure how much longer she will have a paycheck.
"My families are saying you’re not going to go under Terri, we aren’t going to let that happen – but I could be closed for a month," Crocker said.
Some parents who have reached out to NEWS CENTER Maine, say their childcare provider is still requiring them to make payments even though they have shut their doors. Williams said this is a hard call for centers to make right now.
"They don’t know how to remain open if they’re not able to pay their fees but at the same time how can you ask parents to pay who may not have their own income coming in."
That's why she and others are hoping their recommendations like making it easier for childcare providers to take out loans to support themselves in the meantime and only allowing centers in high-need areas to remain open to help prevent the spread of COVID19, will be adopted by state leaders.
"We together collectively are trying to inform our state leaders about the needs on the ground and the best ways to meet those needs and ensure that this child care system can be sustainable and can continue after this crisis has passed."
In a statement to NEWS CENTER Maine, a spokesperson for Maine's Department of Health and Human Services said:
"The Department of Health and Human Services recognizes the pressures Maine’s child care providers face as a result of COVID-19. We also must respond to the needs of the public and Maine families, particularly parents who are essential to Maine’s response, including first responders, health providers, public health staff, municipal employees, and essential state employees. These parents live in communities throughout Maine and must continue to have access to child care to perform their critical work.
We have issued guidance to child care providers regarding the Child Care Subsidy Program to ensure continuity in services for families and providers. This includes continuing to pay providers for the costs of children who are supported by subsidies during closures due to COVID-19. Child care providers are also eligible for the Economic Injury Disaster Loans secured by Governor Mills through the U.S. Small Business Administration."
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