RICHMOND, Va. -- On their way to Mateo's second day back at preschool ten days ago, Juan Ramonet got a call he dreaded.
"Maybe three blocks from dropping him off, I got a call from my wife saying you gotta turn around, we can't bring him in, somebody in his classroom tested positive for COVID," Ramonet said.
Mateo has been quarantined at home ever since, meanwhile, Ramonet is still footing the bill for childcare he is not receiving.
"You're basically just paying for him to be home," Ramonet said.
The issue is front and center in a lot of parents' minds these days, and Elliot Haspel, who works on education policy at the Robins Foundation, said margins are so thin at most childcare facilities they have to charge even when your child sits at home.
"Childcare is very expensive to deliver because you have to have lots of personnel and low adult to child ratios," Haspel said.
"Where else do we pay for something that we don't actually get the benefit of the service?" CBS 6 reporter Melissa Hipolit asked.
"It's an interesting question," Haspel said.
Several parents have asked us what happened to the nearly $200 million in federal dollars Virginia childcare centers received through stimulus efforts like the CARES Act.
They wonder why daycares can't use those dollars to offset quarantine costs to parents.
Haspel said those dollars were used to make up for losses centers incurred when they had to close at the beginning of the pandemic.
"Even when they were able to reopen they were under legally required smaller group sizes for much of 2020---it's like a restaurant being at half capacity they total revenue they could bring in was much less," Haspel said.
Haspel said without the funds, many centers would have closed for good.
He argues the model needs to change.
"I think that's the key thing. I don't think parents all understand just how failed the business model is for childcare, and this isn't just my opinion. The U.S. Treasury came out with a report just last week saying the business model of childcare is unsustainable and it does not work," Haspel said.
The state plans to use roughly 400 million dollars of American Rescue dollars going forward to help stabilize childcare centers.
The money will be used, in part, to help pay for personnel and incentivize participation in the child care subsidy program.
If this is a topic that interests you, and you want to learn more about what ideas are out there to change the system, Haspel recommends visiting the website for the Virginia Promise Partnership.
VPP is a new coalition pushing the state toward a more affordable childcare system.