TODAY'S WEATHER
Sponsored by Idaho Falls Community Hospital
48°
clear sky
humidity: 76%
wind: 5mph N
H 50 • L 48

Some Idaho child care providers will close Monday. They’ll march to stay open long term

Idaho

Share This

BOISE (Idaho Statesman) — More than two dozen child care businesses in the Boise area will close their doors on Monday to allow staff to rally at the Idaho Capitol.

Earlier this month, Gov. Brad Little recommended $99 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds from the federal government go toward supporting the state’s child care industry. The majority of that money is slated for a child care and development block grant ($26 million) and child care stabilization grants ($70 million).

But those federal COVID-19 relief funds have not made their way past the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee.

Child care providers are worried the funding won’t be approved before the legislative session comes to an end, leaving an already struggling industry with nowhere to turn.

If they don’t make a push for funding now, some child care businesses around the state won’t be able to stay open long term, says Lori Fascilla, executive director for Giraffe Laugh Early Learning Centers. Giraffe Laugh is a local non-profit that provides early care and education to young children.

“Over 200 centers have closed in the last year in Idaho. It’s a big issue,” Fascilla told the Idaho Statesman. “We just want our legislature to know that we need those ARPA funds to be able to continue building on our economy in Idaho, because if you have children, there’s no way you’re going to work without child care.”

Pending legislation waiting for a vote, House Bill 369 and Senate Bill 1212, appropriates $34 million from the last federal relief package passed in December, but that relief will end on December 31, 2021 . No legislative action has been taken to accept ARPA funding, which was signed on March 11, 2021, by President Joe Biden.

ENROLLMENT DOWN, OVERHEAD HIGH

“The vast majority of Idaho child care providers are small businesses that operate on thin margins in normal times to accommodate as many families as possible,” said Emily Allen, a policy associate with Idaho Voices for Children, a non-profit formed in 2004 with the goal of advancing public policies focused on child care and child welfare legislation.

“Most providers have been operating at a loss over the last year. Enrollment is down, overhead remains high, and these businesses are struggling to hire qualified teachers. They cannot afford to pay staff any more or their fees will make care out of reach for families already struggling to pay child care expenses.”

The $26 million set aside for child care development would be used in fiscal year 2022 to support programs for children up to 13 years old. The money would boost literacy and after-school programs such as the Boys and Girls Club.

The $70 million in child care stabilization grants can be used by providers to pay personnel costs for any employee; rent or payment on a mortgage obligation; pay for utilities, facility maintenance or improvements, or insurance; for personal protective equipment, cleaning/sanitization supplies/services, or training related to health and safety practices; purchases of or updates to equipment and supplies to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency; purchases of goods and services necessary to maintain or resume child care services; and mental health supports of children and employees.

As of June 2020, about 7,918 families in Idaho received some form of child care assistance, according to data provided by the Idaho Legislative Service Office’s Budget & Policy Analysis Division.

“The child care industry provides critical and foundational support to Idaho’s economy,” said Betty McQuain, a faculty member of BYU-Idaho and former child care provider, in a news release.

“Crisis in the child care industry is also a crisis for Idaho’s economy. When employees lose access to high quality child care programs, employers suffer an estimated $414 million in costs due to absent employees and turnover rates. In addition, Idaho loses an estimated $65.4 million dollars in tax revenue.”

Fascilla, of Giraffe Laugh, says she knows personally of at least 25 owners overseeing 39 child care centers that serve nearly 5,000 children in the Treasure Valley who have committed to being at the Capitol on Monday. Many of the businesses made the decision with the support of the parents who depend on their services.

“As an industry, we have to be working together to make sure that our voices are heard,” Fascilla said. “We feel like this call to action might make it more tangible. This is what it looks like when there is no child care. Because without those relief funds, that’s the direction Idaho is headed.”

SUBMIT A CORRECTION