Gov. David Ige’s newest emergency proclamation allows more businesses to reopen their doors as early as tomorrow.
Licensed child care services are among the operations that can restart, but parents returning to work at those businesses may find it hard to locate supervision for their kids and to afford the available care.
When non-essential workers were ordered to stay at home in March to slow the spread of COVID-19, many child care providers across the state closed or sharply downsized their operations.
A few child care providers were allowed to operate, but only to serve families with essential workers.
Now the governor says it’s time to reopen some low-risk businesses like retail stores and send people back to work.
But Deborah Zysman at Hawaii Children’s Action Network, a child advocacy nonprofit, says there just aren’t many child care options available right now.
"If a child care provider is open, they are serving far fewer kids than before, because of the social distancing, perhaps you're serving a quarter of the children," she said. "The margins for child care were very tight even before [COVID-19], so without additional financial support, in general, child care providers cannot reopen...".
Providers operating now have received grant funds from the Hawai‘i Community Foundation, but Zysman said that extra support can't go on forever.
So for those returning to work, the hunt for care for their children will be difficult and expensive, she said.
Speaking at a media briefing yesterday, the governor said he recognizes the importance of child care as the state reopens, but he offered no immediate plan to parents returning to work and needing child care.
"We do know that child care is an essential part of bringing our workforce back. So we are working with the industry and employers to ensure that employees have access to child care," he said.
Zysman says if the state Department of Human Services expanded child care subsidies for non-essential workers similar to that available for essential employees, it would be a big help.
But child care providers say they also need government help to reopen or continue operating -- and make it possible for other businesses who employ parents to do the same.