Our coalition recently conducted a survey of 106 child care providers based in the District of Columbia to learn more about how their small businesses are weathering the COVID-19 pandemic. Investments in our early learning system are clearly a necessity for reopening the District and supporting long-term economic recovery.
The findings were combined with data pulled from a National Association for the Education of Young Children survey. The DC Association for the Education of Young Children analyzed the survey findings from the 85 respondents who are based in the DC.
Our key takeaways and recommendations are detailed in our recently published joint data brief: DC Can’t Have Economic Recovery Without Child Care Investments. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed and compounded existing issues of access, quality, equity and funding in DC’s early learning (or “child care”) system for families with infants, toddlers and children too young to attend elementary school. This system was already fragile financially before the pandemic — with programs operating on thin margins — and will not survive unless dedicated recovery funding is provided. Workers with young children will not return to work without safe and affordable child care.
- Even with the option to remain open, 83% of DC child care programs closed out of concern for the health and safety of children, families and staff.
- The top three reopening concerns of child care providers are additional costs (90%), reduced enrollment (70%) and insufficient revenue (60%).
- Thousands of child care slots are at risk of being lost. DC’s child care supply of licensed child care slots could decrease 20% (6,500 slots) without dedicated public funding support.
We are becoming increasingly aware that reopening will be a more costly business model. Reduced class sizes and increased cleaning costs are expenses we cannot simply transfer to families. – Berna Artis, School of Friends
The surveys shed light on the looming and overlooked child care crisis. It was designed to help policymakers, funders, and advocates make informed decisions about where resources are needed most in DC to support families with young children as businesses begin to reopen and temporary work-from-home options are phased out. After loss in revenue, lack of child care is the most common concern among small business owners amid COVID-19.
By providing long-term child care stabilization funds, DC can maintain child care slots as businesses build back to full capacity so that child and staff safety — not funding needs — drive provider decisions about how and when to increase capacity. The Under 3 DC coalition believes that equity can and must start at birth. In policy terms, this means we must provide the early childhood learning system the same access to long-term funding stability as Pre-K to 12 system.
We would like to thank the DC Early Learning Collaborative, Washington Association of Child Care Centers, Director’s Exchange, DC Head Start Association, DC Family Child Care Association, and the National Association for the Education of Young Children for their partnership with the creation of and data collection for the surveys. This work was funded by the Bainum Family Foundation.