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Advocates Say N.H. Economy Can’t Fully Reopen Until Access to Child Care Is Expanded

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State child care advocates say New Hampshire’s essential industries will not be able to operate at full capacity without first expanding access to and affordability of child care.

Health and Human Services Associate Commissioner Chris Tappan says that in the grocery industry, for example, over a quarter of employees are in need of some type of child care.

“So it’s really critical that as we look at industries to re-open that we understand what their child care needs are and we align that with how we reboot and reinitiate the expansion or reopening of our child care centers as well,” she says.

[Sununu Lays Out Partial Roadmap for Reopening N.H.'s Economy]

Child care centers have struggled to retain staff since the state emergency over COVID-19 was declared March 13 in New Hampshire.

Tappan says she’s heard of many two-parent families that have one parent working in the grocery industry and the other working in the child care industry.

“They have two young children, they have one that’s school aged and one who is in pre-school,” she says. “And they face the situation of do they both stay in the workforce or do they stay home.

“And when you add the cost of child care and the opportunity to have unemployment for the time being, many families have chosen for the person working as a child care professional, typically mom, to stay home and take care of their own children.”

But, she says, these professionals want to work.

The CARES Act provided $3.5 billion nationally to support the child care sector. According to Lisa English, Assistant Director for Policy for the Governor’s Office for Economic Recovery & Relief, New Hampshire has received just under $7 million of those funds to support child care.

“New Hampshire’s using some of those funds to continue payments and assist child care providers in the case of decreased enrollments or closures,” says English.

But Tappan and Christine Brennan, the deputy commissioner of the state Department of Education, are asking the state for additional funds to boost the child care industry. The funds will go to support social distancing that will now be required at child care centers, funding to respond to the elevated health requirements, funding that will help support children having difficult transitioning back to day care, and funding to order adequate supplies.

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