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Daycares in Central Virginia report dire futures due to COVID-19, survey says

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Posted at 5:13 PM, Aug 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-11 21:16:37-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- A recent survey of more than 100 daycares and childcare centers in Central Virginia revealed that a majority would need some financial assistance to survive.

The survey was conducted by the non-profits ChildSavers, Smart Beginnings and the Robins Foundation.

More than 100 respondents at-home and center-based child care providers participated in the online survey in July.

Providers located in Richmond, Charles City, and Colonial Heights and Chesterfield, Henrico, Goochland, Hanover, New Kent and Powhatan counties participated in the survey, according to a press release.

The survey found that about 50 percent of daycare centers fear they can’t survive past three months without government assistance. That number grew to 71 percent of child care providers across the region who worry their businesses may close within the next six months without additional financial assistance.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, most childcare centers are operating at 50 percent capacity.

Rich Schultz, the Executive Director of Smart Beginnings of Greater Richmond, called the results “compelling.”

“When you think about the business impacts it’s just not a sustainable business model,” Schultz said. “Because of COVID they are forced to operate with reduced classroom sizes, for health and safety reasons which we understand - with 50 percent less students that’s 50 percent less revenue.”

Schultz said childcare center operators are under great stresses, especially when it comes to health and safety.

“If you can’t get PPE, sanitizer, you can bulk purchase, those are other things childcare operators are reporting pretty universally is a real problem,” he explained.

Lisa Thompson, the Child Development Program Manager at ChildSavers located in Church Hill, said the pandemic has revealed the importance of childcare.

“In this pandemic we are being forced to think about the urgency of showing that childcare providers have the support they need from all parents,” Thompson stated.

ChildSavers has been working with providers in the region to make sure they have the resources and technical assistance they need, from locating food and other supplies to educating providers on sanitation and safety practices, according to a release.

Lisa Mertins, the director of a Childtime Learning Center location, said about 70 percent of children stopped attending when the pandemic started.

They’re now operating at 50 percent capacity.

“100 percent for us is about 150 students and I had around 130 before the pandemic started. Today I average anywhere from 67 to 80 on a normal day,” Mertins recalled.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Mertins can fill a classroom with 20 toddlers and four teachers. Now, guidelines force her to only allow 10 children and two teachers inside one room.

“How can you get a toddler who is 16 to 24 months to social distance? Since that’s so hard to do they have to limit the number of kids in a classroom,” she said.

Financially, Childtime is doing OK. But, she empathized with the individual daycare operators who may be struggling to keep the doors opened.

“I’m at the point where yesterday I took registration paperwork for the last school ager I could have for the year,” Mertins said. “If parents wanted to come back at this point, ones that were here before, I would have to turn them away.”

The non-profits encouraged lawmakers to take notice and pass legislation to financially fund childcare centers. They hoped localities offer more grants to keep daycares open when the public needs them the most.

Virginia Together: The Rebound Richmond campaign is here to help. Find information on who is hiring, investigations into unemployment payment issues, financial advice on making ends meet, and mental health advice on managing the pressures. These stories will be featured often on CBS 6 News and can be found by clicking this link.

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