This week, early childhood organizations called for immediate support to protect Arkansas’s child care sector during and after the coronavirus pandemic. Currently, more than half of the state’s 2,000 child care providers remain open, yet many are facing steeply declining enrollments and a persistent lack of access to cleaning supplies, medical equipment and essential food items. Without assistance, programs may be forced to close permanently, with long-term ramifications to Arkansas’s economy.
In March, the Arkansas Department of Human Services increased allocations for child care providers receiving Child Care and Development Block Grant funds. Licensed programs that do not have a federal subsidy agreement have received limited relief from the state. To help child care centers and family child care homes survive, organizations including the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families; Arkansas Association for Infant Mental Health; Arkansas Campaign for Grade-Level Reading; Arkansas Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics; Arkansas Early Childhood Association; Communities Unlimited; ForwARd Arkansas; and HOPE Credit Union are calling for the state to:
- Coordinate access to limited Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) and Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS)-required supplies (e.g., cleaning products, thermometers) to keep workers and the children they serve safe
- Ease the process for programs to purchase essential food items at grocery stores
- Support existing programs instead of encouraging pop-up child care in the private industry
- Provide financial supports to licensed providers to meet current ADH/DHS guidelines on group size and/or reductions in enrollment
- Implement a grant or loan program, to be managed by Community Development Financial Institutions, with $10,000 available per licensed provider to reopen or meet shortfalls caused by drops in attendance