Getting Families Back to Work

As Louisiana recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic and prepares to reopen the economy, any recovery plans must include the early care and education (ECE) sector. Prior to COVID-19, two-thirds of children age five and under in Louisiana had both parents or their single parent in the workforce.1 For those parents to return to work, they must have access to quality, reliable early care and education for their children. To ensure this access, critical investments will be necessary to restore the historically underinvested ECE industry impacted by COVID-19 and expand resources available to families experiencing financial losses as a result of the pandemic. Without a robust ECE industry, Louisiana will struggle to get back to work.

For employees to return to work and the Louisiana economy to fully reopen, an initial investment of $71 million, including $46 million in one-time federal funds and $25 million in ongoing state funds, must be made in early care and education.
 

The Facts:

 

Early care and education is essential to restarting the economy 

  • Almost all (98%) of the ECE providers that remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic are serving children of essential workers[2], supporting the working parents and employers keeping Louisiana’s citizens healthy and economy moving during the pandemic.

  • Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the state was only serving 15% of eligible children ages three and under.[3]  With over 361,000 Louisianans filing for or continuing to claim unemployment benefits as of May 2, the need for programs like the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) will be greater than ever.[4]

Early care and education providers need support to reopen

  • Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, ECE providers operated on precariously thin profit margins, leaving them especially vulnerable in economic downturns.[5]

  • 70% of licensed ECE providers in Louisiana had reported their closure to the Louisiana Department of Education, as of May 1, 2020, impacting almost 83,000 children. 

  • If families continue to keep children home or a provider is closed for an extended period, 36% of ECE providers indicated those extended closures will force them to close permanently.[6] 

  • Closed ECE providers estimate needing almost $23,000 per center on average to reopen[7], totaling approximately $26 million statewide.

Parents will have even more difficulty affording early care and education due to COVID-19 precautions

  • Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, quality, reliable early care and education cost almost as much as public college tuition[8], and 65% of working parents waiting to receive CCAP reported having to borrow money to afford child care.[9]  With new health guidelines as a result of COVID-19, the cost of care will be even higher.

  • Health guidelines requiring smaller group sizes reduce enrollment capacity for many ECE providers by half. For quality ECE providers, the cost of care would likely increase by at least 35% for infants, whose care is already substantially more expensive than care for older children, to over 60% for 4-year-olds.[10] 

  • Without increased reimbursement rates for public programs, quality, reliable ECE will remain out of reach for many working families, including those essential to keeping the economy moving. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, reimbursement rates for programs, including CCAP, were already insufficient to cover the true cost of care at quality ECE centers. Research suggests that the market rates used to determine reimbursement rates do not take into account the business cost of delivering care. With smaller group sizes as a result of COVID-19, current reimbursement rates would cover only 40% to 55% of per child costs12, exacerbating an already serious issue.