(The Center Square) – The $50 million in state funding for grants to support child-care providers will help, but it isn’t enough for the industry, the executive director of the Maryland State Child Care Association said.
Earlier this year, Gov. Larry Hogan announced the funding in his fiscal year 2023 budget and House Bill 89. The grants will be disbursed in fiscal years 2022 and 2023 for providers who suffered an operational burden or financial hardship during the pandemic, according to a release from the governor’s office.
“Maryland lost over 1,000 child-care businesses due to the pandemic,” Christina Peusch, executive director of the Maryland State Child Care Association, told The Center Square. “And we have a critical workforce shortage for not only teachers but for small businesses, especially child care because the cohort of children that we educate and care for are birth to 5, very few people vaccinated for COVID. And it wasn’t even available until very recently.”
The grants would come through the state Department of Education’s Child Care Stabilization Grant Program, according to the release.
“I would say we’re trying to move from stabilization to recovery,” Peusch said. “But we’re not quite there yet. It’s enough to keep us going a little bit longer.”
Other grants that Maryland child-care providers received during the last several years were from the federal government and were earmarked to stabilize the essential workforce.
“But the state did not put any additional money into the budget for child care,” she said. “But they did put money, $50 million, into the budget for restaurants, for grants.”
The Maryland State Child Care Association is a nonprofit organization that advocates and lobbies at the local, state and federal levels, she said. They asked the governor and legislature to make the funding available immediately because the childcare industry still struggles with capacity issues after losing so many businesses and as the workforce shortage has decimated small businesses.
Another bit of help for child-care providers was $16 million budgeted for a one-year period for employee retirement and recruitment bonuses, Peusch said.
Child care is very different from many industries.
“Parents have to work,” Peusch said. “There’s no robot or computer that can take care of your kid. So, it’s a very different industry. We can’t do curbside carryout.”
Child-care workers in Maryland make less than parking attendants or their equivalent, she said. A teacher makes close to $25,000 a year, while a director or administrator of a child-care program makes closer to $40,000, which she said are barely living wages.
Child-care providers can’t charge more because families won’t be able to afford it, she said.
Maryland offers a child care scholarship but is one of the lowest states for eligibility and reimbursement rates although it’s one of the wealthiest states in the country. The Maryland State Child Care Association helped advocate to increase eligibility from families of four earning up to $40,000 to $90,000.
Child-care costs rival mortgage payments, rent and college tuition, Peusch said.
A no-interest child-care loan is offered through a revolving capital loan fund restricted to child care to build capacity. The amounts are not huge, but are helpful, she said.