By: Ellie Buerk Access article
Crisis is palpable in the voices of early child-care workers.
As many tell matching stories of hiring struggles and enrollment reductions since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, widespread closures and the end to an industry that has been teetering on the brink of collapse for years may be imminent, they say, if relief in the form of federal dollars remains unfelt.
For more than a year, Camille Harris, owner of All 4 Kids, a Holland day-care center, has been scared — scared for her business, her health, her family, and the children she serves.
In March, 2020, Ms. Harris maxed out her enrollment at 44 students. Within a week, her enrollment dropped to 20. During the year that followed, when she wasn’t closed entirely because of statewide shutdowns or her own life-threatening bout with the coronavirus, she’s had less than 15 students in her classrooms daily.
“We were pumped up, getting these kids socio-emotionally ready for kindergarten and then it literally came to a complete stop,” Ms. Harris said.
Between February, 2020, and May, 2021, the child-care industry lost roughly 134,500 jobs that haven’t returned.