COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Child care providers adapt to the unique challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. They also struggle because changes in regulations impact the way they do business. One of the changes providers are adapting to is helping children with remote learning as they start the new school year.
“If you’re a working parent, you need child care to go to work just like you need a road to go to work,” said Eric Karolak, CEO of Action for Children, a child care resource provider in Columbus. “They’re also being asked to adjust to meet the needs of families returning to school with young children who aren’t necessarily returning to school in the normal way.”
Karolak explained that the pandemic has caused numerous child care centers to struggle and some have closed.
“They’ve not been able to enroll as many children and as a result, they’re not been able to have the same kind of revenue. But at the same time, their expenses have gone up because they’ve been operating under heightened protocols to keep children safe and healthy,” Karolak said. “So, that’s put child care programs in a real financial bind, which is why the commissioners, the council, the mayor took action.”
Karolak referred to more than $8 million in new funding to help child care providers in the Columbus area. The City of Columbus will be offering $6.2 million and the Franklin County Commission approved $2 million in grant money this week. These funds come from the federal CARES Act that was passed in March.
“They’re grants to child care providers, both child care centers and in-home child care providers who are licensed, serving publicly funded child care and in certain high need zip codes,” Karolak said. “We’re all worried about child care surviving this pandemic. To be there on the other side when we all come out of the pandemic and want our economy functioning at full speed and what will make the difference for child care in central Ohio is additional supports like this.”
This week the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) and the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) said child care providers may care for school-age children who are learning remotely during the school day and that those providers would receive funding to cover the cost of care for economically eligible children.
“This was our response in trying to insure that if children needed a safe place to go, given the ever-changing environment, that we had a place that we knew they were with individuals that were background checked and had to go through the proper protocol,” said Kara Wente with ODJFS. “Certainly, every family is going to need to make their own choice. What we’ve tried to do is if a family has to work and they don’t have an option but to have their kid cared for by someone other than themselves, to make it as safe as possible.”
ODJFS has created a website for families to search licensed childcare providers to find the best fit for them.