Early childhood education, care programs struggle to provide services, stay afloat amid COVID-19

Private and government-subsidized early childhood education programs are adapting to an ongoing pandemic, along with the families they are trying to serve.
Private and government-subsidized early childhood education programs are adapting to an ongoing pandemic, along with the families they are trying to serve.

Providers are following local guidelines to keep children and workers safe, which means class sizes must be significantly smaller.

"We have families who are calling us every day wanting to go to work and we're having to tell them, at some of our schools, that we're really sorry, we don't have a space," said Lisa Wilkin, executive director of the Childhood Development Consortium of Los Angeles.

Subsidized programs have more of a safety net through government funding.

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"Even if they have reduced capacity; two, three children that they're serving in their physical space, as long as they're doing distance learning for those other children they are getting paid their complete rate," explained Nina Buthee, executive director of Every Child California.

Wilkin addressed the financial burden private providers face.

"We've seen a drop of about 53% in our enrollment. And we really need to operate at full capacity in order to break even," she said. "I'm just very concerned that the private childcare market is going to be decimated."

"Childcare workers are some of the lowest-paid, often forgotten individuals that you can imagine. They are oftentimes women of color, and they are small women business owners of color," said Buthee.

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She said while the state has done a great job assisting low-income families by keeping subsidized programs open, federal assistance will be key for private providers to stay afloat.

"A number of them were able to get the Payroll Protection funds, but now we're reaching that cliff effect if you will, where those funds are running out and we need additional funds from the federal government in order to help out those private paid childcare centers in particular."

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