Licensed child care centers that don’t receive state assistance sent out a call for help from the state today.

In a news release, the Arkansas Early Childhood Association said about half the state’s 2,000 child care providers remain open, but enrollment has fallen and they have problems with access to cleaning supplies, medical equipment and essential food. Without help they may have to close.

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“Before the coronavirus hit, our state’s child care providers were operating on razor thin margins,” said Jeff Dyer, executive director of the Arkansas Early Childhood Association. “If we don’t provide significant public investment and support, they may soon have to shutter their doors, leaving Arkansans out of work and families without adequate care options.”

The release said child care centers account for 17,800 jobs and serve 137,000 children. About a third of the programs have lost income since March 25 because families can’t pay.

The state has recognized the need. In March, it increased payments to child care providers that receive federal block grant money. But licensed programs that don’t receive subsidies have gotten limited help.

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A 2019 report from the Committee for Economic Development showed child care has a $702-million impact on Arkansas’s economy. In total, it supports more than 17,800 jobs, a $296.8-million payroll and 137,000 children. According to a recent survey by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, many of the state’s child care centers and homes will not be able to survive COVID-19 closures. As of March 25, 33 percent of programs had lost income due to families’ inability to pay.

According to the release, Arkansas Advocates for Children and FamiliesArkansas Association for Infant Mental HealthArkansas Campaign for Grade-Level ReadingArkansas Chapter, American Academy of PediatricsArkansas Early Childhood AssociationCommunities UnlimitedForwARd Arkansas; and HOPE Credit Union are calling for the state to:

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  • Coordinate access to limited Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) and Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS)-required supplies (e.g., cleaning products, thermometers) to keep workers and the children they serve safe

  • Ease the process for programs to purchase essential food items at grocery stores

  • Support existing programs instead of encouraging pop-up child care in the private industry

  • Provide financial supports to licensed providers to meet current ADH/DHS guidelines on group size and/or reductions inenrollment

  • Implement a grant or loan program, to be managed by Community Development Financial Institutions, with $10,000 available per licensed provider to reopen or meet shortfalls caused by drops in attendance

A good topic for the governor’s daily briefing tomorrow.