When the COVID-19 quarantine began in March of this year, Early Childhood Education (ECE) providers were immediately impacted by a statewide order to close their businesses. PHMC’s Child Development and Family Services division expanded its technical assistance (TA) programs to help childcare operators make swift business decisions in an uncertain environment.

With existing business support programming already in place, PHMC also deployed tiered technical assistance services to ECE providers of varying kinds and sizes. The Fund for Quality and the Fund for Sustaining Quality aim to strengthen, expand and sustain the operations of quality ECE programs. The Fiscal Hub understands providers’ business operating conditions, develops tools and provides resources to improve the financial stability of providers. In addition, new resources and tools were developed to complement what was already in place.

At the conclusion of this engagement, some providers participated in an exit survey. The findings provide useful insights about the status of early childhood businesses and fragility of the childcare industry. They are however not representative of city-wide provider trends.

Some key findings:

  • The majority of family/group providers (76%) and centers (71%) reported a loss of income.
  • Nearly half of the providers (43%) reported up to 50% of enrolled families are not returning.
  • Two thirds of providers (62%) reported laying off staff.
  • Half of providers (50%) reported not being able to or still working on securing required personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies to meet recommended health and safety guidelines.

A critical component to successful reopening is the childcare programs’ ability to secure required personal protective equipment and implement CDC and Philadelphia Department of Public Health guidelines. Thanks to funding from William Penn Foundation, PHMC is providing Health & Safety consultation, free PPE and cleaning and sanitizing supplies through December 2020. Programs receive help creating new or revised policies and procedures, training staff in updated health and safety practices and proper use of PPE and communicating with families about new procedures and safeguards in place.

PHMC continues to assist childcare programs through on-going business support projects to stabilize their businesses through the pandemic. Finding cost savings to manage lower enrollment and reduced revenue is vital to ECE business survival until families are able and willing to return to their childcare programs.

An important take-away is that the ECE sector needs consistently available business consultation and as a result needs to develop a larger workforce of expert ECE business consultants and core business function service providers in areas such as accounting, human resources, procurement and risk management.

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