Child care advocates have started pushing for more funding and reforms

Tim Lopez skates with his daughter Samantha Lopez as a way to pass the time with her on March 17, 2020, in Juneau. Typically the 2-year-old would have been at Little Eagles and Ravens Nest, or LEARN in the middle of the day but it had closed. The facility has since reopened but with different protocols in place. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

At a virtual community forum Friday June 5th co-hosted by Anchorage Assembly Member Meg Zaletel, parents, advocates, and child care providers spoke about the difficulties they are facing as the state slowly reopens during the coronavirus pandemic.

Jasmin Smith, an entrepreneur and co-host of the forum says childcare was already a challenge for her as a single parent prior to the pandemic.

“As a single parent, there isn’t a day off,” she said. “So when COVID hit, truthfully it was like my worst nightmare because I love my kids but for me work from home is not that simple. I can’t focus.”

Democratic Representative Ivy Sponholz attended the forum. She said child care reform and funding should be a voting issue in the upcoming election.

“We put money in the budget for pre-k this year, which is really important, and the Governor vetoed it,” she said. “We need to be funding these things because childcare doesn’t pencil out, economically it doesn’t work.”

About 64 percent of all child care facilities in the state are now open according to thread Alaska CEO Stephanie Berglund during the program Talk of Alaska Tuesday. But many facilities are operating at reduced capacity and with increased expenses in order to comply with health mandates.

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Berglund says thread will be asking all municipalities statewide to use a portion of their CARES Act funding to support childcare in their community.

“In our estimation that there’s a need of about $10 million per month, as long as we’re in this pandemic to support childcare across the state,” she said. “So there’s a huge need to level the stability of childcare programs that are open. We need to help those that are closed to reopen, and also [possibly help] childcare be more for affordable for families during this period as well.”

The hosts of Friday’s community forum said there will be more discussions to come focused on the experiences of providers and specific policy proposals.

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