Many child care centers have closed or limited operations across the state and thousands of parents are suddenly faced with the challenge of working while being a full-time caregiver. Our health care professionals, first responders, state employees, and those in professions vital to combatting this crisis who are providing critical COVID-19 support are not exempt from the challenges of lost childcare options. These workers provide critical services every day and it will be impossible to combat this crisis if they can no longer work because they are forced to choose between caring for their child and going to work. We need to find a way to meet this challenge.
Erin and I have two amazing daughters, Iris and Josie, and when their daycare closed this week we did what a lot of parents have had to do with school closures — make tough decisions on scheduling and providing care. Like many working parents, those decisions happen on a daily basis. As a former legal aid attorney with New Hampshire Legal Assistance, and as a State Senator, I know working parents across New Hampshire are already stretched, finding it harder and harder to balance work and family, and oftentimes living paycheck to paycheck. That’s especially true for our tipped workers in our restaurant industry that have been abruptly shut down. Erin and I are fortunate, we have a great support network and workplace flexibility, but even with that, every day presents a new challenge.
At this time, every child care facility in New Hampshire is making its own decision on how and when it remains open. We must ensure that child care centers that are able to safely stay open can afford to do so. That’s critical for our child care workers, our overall workforce, our economy, our public health, and, most importantly: our kids.
There are two key steps that our state administration should undertake as soon as possible:
First, New Hampshire can and should use emergency powers to allocate some of the $5 million secured by the federal delegation and/or applicable federal funding streams and state resources to create a daily reimbursement rate so child care centers can afford to stay open. Second, the state should create a Child Care Public-Private Partnership on COVID-19 and take the lead on the inventorying, the coordination, and the planning for child care availability across the state for the children of state employees, first responders, and medical providers — all workers that have been working double-time for all of us. These children cannot be left behind, but it’s unfair and impracticable to place this burden solely on the shoulders of child care centers.
In this critical moment, child care centers are providing a valuable public service and we cannot afford to have all of them close. They need the resources to stay open, where they can. We need to take immediate, aggressive action now or else we risk having nowhere to turn. And after we work together to get through this crisis, we must plan for the future and meaningfully deal with the child care shortage and affordability issues facing Granite State families and businesses.