In March of 2020, our world started to suddenly yet progressively change. Each day, more and more offices, restaurants, and then storefront businesses started to close their doors. Finally, the day came when the weight of the pandemic became even heavier for caregivers of children. School districts around the country decided to cancel the remainder of the school year for in-person classes. Within days, bedrooms turned in to office cubicles, and living rooms were converted into classrooms.

But if you’re a parent of a child in daycare or Pre-K, you know that one sector of essential workers kept their doors open. Child care was listed among essential services within Executive Orders from the Governor’s office. Most early child care providers who could maintain their workforce, child enrollment, and adhere to the safety guidelines of the CDC and DCF, remained open.

However, like every other business, at the time, Providers scrambled to purchase cleaning and emergency supplies from a dwindling number of vendors or stores. These small businesses immediately felt the economic blow caused by the pandemic as parents started to decide to keep their children home, and class enrollment numbers began to drop. In addition, many teachers who were also parents struggled to reconcile the cost-benefit of continuing to work and get paid versus potentially risking their family’s health by working with the public.

So, how did so many early child care centers manage to stay open? It began with early child care providers making the brave decision to continue to serve their communities’ by caring for its children — the foundation of society’s workforce. Some also credit the survival of many child care businesses with a variety of state and federal programs implemented by the government and facilitated through local Early Learning Coalitions. These programs and grants were established to help to uphold the child care industry, so caregivers who still were employed could continue to work.

The Early Learning Coalition of Seminole, worked tirelessly to find suppliers who could fulfill large orders of PPE supplies, during the peak of demand. Nonetheless, the Coalition purchased thousands of dollars worth of hard to find cleaning and PPE supplies for hundreds of child care centers at no cost to providers.

The state of Florida also created a program that provided free to affordable child care for First Responders and Healthcare Workers, regardless of income limits. This group of essential workers was able to receive safe and reliable child care while they worked extended hours to respond to the increased need for healthcare services, which also helped to improve enrollment for child care provider centers.

Furthermore, Early Learning Coalitions across the state of Florida distributed mini-grants to qualifying local child care centers through CARES Act funding. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the ELC has continued to pay for 100 percent enrollment, regardless of children actually going to daycare. Fees for parents were also waived to help relieve families of some of their financial burdens.

Contact the ELC at 407-960-2460 or email us your questions regarding child care or child development to info@seminoleearlylearning.or Visit: www.seminoleearlylearning.org/covid-19/ for more on our response to the Coronavirus pandemic.