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Daycare enrollment dropping due to COVID, some centers struggle to stay open

Jan 4, 2022, 7:43 PM
(File photo: The toddler room, provided by the University of Utah.)
(File photo: The toddler room, provided by the University of Utah.)

SALT LAKE CITY — COVID-19 is making a bad problem worse for daycare providers across the state.  Officials say many parents are taking their kids out of daycare, and the centers are having a hard time surviving. 

COVID-19 and daycare

Some daycare industry analysts say enrollment has been “roller-coastering” since the beginning of the pandemic, but things have become especially bad in recent months.  Helping Hands is a nutrition program that works with home daycare providers and daycare centers, and Director Susan Ison estimates larger daycare centers have about 60 percent the enrollment they had before the pandemic.

Ison said, “We have a couple that are higher than that, and we had one that has to close completely just because they couldn’t get enough children in to be able to continue to pay their teachers.”

While the larger centers may have been hit the hardest, Ison says the smaller home care providers are also struggling to find enough kids to care for.

She said, “We have a couple that are licensed for 16 and only have four in care.”

What’s the problem?

What’s causing this?  Ison believes there are two problems working against care providers.  One, Ison says many parents are pulling their kids out of daycare, fearing they’ll be sickened with COVID-19.  Plus, many parents have found efficient ways to work from home. And parents don’t need to leave their children with anyone else during the workday.

Michael Diehl with Utah State University says centers in the far north part of the state haven’t been impacted as badly from COVID-19, partly due to operators reaching out for financial assistance.

“There have been additional funds coming through with Child Care Licensing to help providers stay afloat,” Diehl said.  “Then, there’s also has been some additional emergency COVID funds.”

However, he says enrollment appears to be dropping steadily every month, which is a terrible sign for many daycare providers.

He said, “I think if it continues the route that it’s going, we’ll definitely see some that shut down.”

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