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Is It Worth Going Into Further Debt to Provide Services for "Essential Workers"

  • 1.  Is It Worth Going Into Further Debt to Provide Services for "Essential Workers"

    Posted 04-22-2020 04:04 PM
    Over the last 5 weeks, the childcare industry has been turned upside down.  The orders that have been put into place by the Governors, to close businesses and public schools, in order to protect the general public from the spread of Covid 19, aren't applicable to childcare centers according to these Governors because they need us to stay open for "Essential Workers".  They fail to acknowledge, that by staying open to provide services to "Essential Workers", we put ourselves, our staff and the children we care for at a higher risk of being exposed to and contracting the Covid 19 virus.  It' as if the value, of who we are who we serve, is less important than the rest of the nation that has been told to "Stay at Home" for their safety and the safety of others.  "The "Stay at Home" order and the closure of the public schools has created a fear in parents that have caused them to withdraw their children from childcare centers, further creating a financial crisis for the centers.

    Most centers that have stayed open are now seeing less than 25% of their original students attend the program on any given day.  These are the "Essential Worker" students that we have been told we must try to stay open for.  Along with staying open, we must also comply with all of the current CDC Guidelines for sterilizing our centers, social distancing and requiring staff to wear at least modified PPE's.  If it is so important for childcare centers to stay open for "Essential Workers" why aren't we seeing higher attendance or requests for new enrollments from these families.  Could be it be as parents, they are scared too about bringing their child to an environment where their risk of exposure is higher?  Could it be that their conscience won't allow them to bring their child in, because they know as an "Essential Worker" they have been at a higher risk of exposure and they don't want to potentially bring that into the center?

    As the bills have mounted up, the cost of additional supplies and protective gear have gone up and our revenues have plummeted, we have been encouraged by the government to apply for the PPP loan program or the EIDL program to keep our businesses going.  Why should we have to take on additional financial debt, just to provide services to a few "Essential Families"?  Why should we have to take on the "Emotional Debt" of worrying about the health risk to ourselves, our staff and the children?

    Three weeks ago we made the difficult decision to close our last two centers.  In 38 years we have never had to close for more than a week.  There was no longer enough revenues to cover the payroll and not enough in savings to cover all of the refunds families were demanding.  We laid off all 45 of our employees not knowing if or when we would return.  We applied for the PPP loan program and were approved in 3 days.  We took on a debt of close to $240,000.00 and reopened this past Monday.  I didn't take on the debt because I felt we needed to be there again for the "Essential Families", I took it on because I felt heartbroken for my staff.  The loan will cover the next 8 weeks of payroll and a few additional bills, but then that will be it.  So far, we only have about the same number of kids returning that we had when we closed 3 weeks ago.  Most of the other centers that have remained open in our area are seeing about the same numbers or less.  Over the next 8 weeks, we will take on additional operating expenses, while not having the revenue to cover it, just so that "Essential Workers" can go to work supposedly.  I don't think I should have to take on additional "non forgivable" SBA loans just to cater to these few families.

    Who else is struggling with this delima?

    ------------------------------
    Tim Kaminski
    Director/Owner
    Gingerbread Kids Academy
    Richmond TX
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  • 2.  RE: Is It Worth Going Into Further Debt to Provide Services for "Essential Workers"

    Posted 04-22-2020 06:12 PM
    Hi Tim,

    It is incredible what you are doing for your community. You are right about staying open for only a small percentage of the workforce. While essential workers do need childcare, no one should be risking exposure to the virus due to their profession. Truly I feel, that there should be 1 daycare or more, (in each county), based on need, that should be open to essential workers only. Those who decide to work in these centers should be provided hazard pay and county/state given protective equipment.

    Daycares should not be using their revenue to pay for needed protective equipment when the government would like them to stay open. Each night, the rooms should be sanitized and disinfected through use of hospital-grade cleansers by a professional cleaning crew. This should be paid for by state resources not daycares. Due to extreme cost measures this will never come to fruition.

    I personally, do not think daycares should be open at all during the pandemic. My own daycare has been closed since March 16th, and unless the governor chooses to lift the stay-at-home-order, we will remain closed. The risk of infection is too high for everyone.

    Your financial situation is heartbreaking and know that your staff are grateful for your sacrifice. Otherwise, they would completely be without income at this time. Any income for any period of time is helping feed and care for their own families.

    I wish you the best of luck in all you do.

    ------------------------------
    Jennifer Illinois
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  • 3.  RE: Is It Worth Going Into Further Debt to Provide Services for "Essential Workers"

    Posted 04-23-2020 09:11 AM
    Jennifer & Tim,

    I agree -- and I would add that early childhood education (at least in my state) would benefit from new coordinating efforts.  My center has been open throughout, and I obtained a state waiver, but I was really struck throughout this process that the state attitude seems to be "You are open? You better have that waiver!" rather than "Thank you for remaining open -- what do you need and how can I help?"

    Early on, I was contacted numerous times by the state subsidy/quality folks, and it was clear to me that they had been charged with making sure that any program that was open had a waiver.  Never once did they ask what I needed or what I was struggling with.   The state seems to think that we work for them, rather than the other way around.  I understand that the state's first priority is protecting children and families, but providers are the solution, not the problem!

    The state regulatory agencies and structures that oversee this industry have enough staff (all of whom seem to be receiving paychecks) and dollars to have offered more to providers.  In my state, you can find lists online of the programs that received waivers, but there is no list available to identify programs that are actually open.  In order to seek guidance, ideas, and feedback, I had to pick up the phone and call other providers until I found those that were open.  I emailed and called as many peers as I could to ask questions and think out loud, only to learn that each and every one of us was making this up as we went along.  Meanwhile, I was addressing the numerous concerns from staff and families that developed as this situation unfolded.

    Coordination at the local level could have been the best of both worlds -- care for children who need it, provided by staff who wanted to work, pooling resources to conserve costs and share vital materials, and reducing exposure risks to all involved.  This just doesn't seem that hard to me -- but in my community, we lack a mechanism to engage collaboratively to meet these needs.  I think it is fair to expect that the state entities that oversee our work meet this need.  Instead, for example, we get notified that "licensing visits"  have been suspended for a period of time.  As if that's helpful -- I don't care if you visit me now or later.  I know you aren't coming now because that would put the licensing rep in the same personal health jeopardy that we face every day.

    I'm ready for providers to get loud about what we need -- and deserve -- in order to serve our communities.

    Teri Windisch
    Director, Children's Village at Doylestown Hospital
    Doylestown, Pennsylvania

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    Teri Windisch
    Director
    Children''s Village at Doylestown
    Doylestown PA
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  • 4.  RE: Is It Worth Going Into Further Debt to Provide Services for "Essential Workers"

    Posted 21 days ago
    Hi Tim,
    I am facing a very similar situation at my preschool business. I am actually burned out. I think early childhood educators are not given the respect and appreciation we all deserved. This pandemic has made things even worse for us. I kept watching the news to hear what guidance was there for the preschool owners. Sadly there has been nothin specific. I wished they had also made mandatory to close so that i didn't feel all these mixed emotions about it. Some days I felt that i needed to close some days i felt differently. I was left with only 15-20 percent of my enrollment. so i finally had to close on April 9th. because of that. The CDC guidance has been hard to implement. More money have to be invested. No supplies needed for the extra disinfecting are found anywhere, not even online. Milk and other food items difficult to find. We still had to deal with parents trying to bring their sick children, even knowing that the rules about that are more strict because of the pandemia. We have put ourselves at risk, as well as our staff because you are facing the dilema on what is the most appropriate decision to make? You can not really teach the way you are used to, because of the mixed age classrooms, so you have to reinvent yourself and come up with diffrent things. I can not complain about my DCF licensing inspector at least, when i reached out to him, he was very empathetic and told me just to keep him informed on my decision to close/remain open. My Local Early Learning Coalition have also being very supported. I was informed on the amazing bonus i would get per every essential worker child i would get. I Have not gotten not even one child. So this made me wonder why? Is it because doctors and nurses are well aware of the danger and do not want to expose thier children? but here we are everyday... being exposed. I also applied for the loan and i am just hoping that i do not regret this decision later. I was advised by a financial consultant not to get it, but i did anyway. I just received the money this week, just ontime for payroll and i was able to pay everyone that was working before the pandemia. The other issue i am dealing with is; not being sure of how to distibute the money. There was half of my staff that the minute this started, decided to stay home because of the fear. I have other four that have been with me no matter what. Now, i am suppose to put everyone on payroll and i did, but do i blame the ones that stopped for not wanting to work? two of them did not even respond to my texs/calls anymore. How do i compensate the ones that have stuck with me. Now if i pay them more hours i will not have enough for "everyone". I have mixed feeling because i don't feel i shoul be paying everyone. One of them was already showing signs that she was going to quit because she was not happy that i had to put her in a classroom permanently since i did not need her as a floater anymore, because she was making too many mistakes. I had given her so many opportunities to correct her mistakes but nothing changed. This happened right before the pandemia problems started and i feel that she used the situation to just leave. Unfortunatelly one of the requirements for this PPP loan is to pay everyone. I reopen this week of May 4 and i have less children than what i had right before i closed. I have 5-6 children everyday. So guess what? i am closing again due to the lack of children. I am having so much conflict in my heart. I have around 6 parents that still want me to open because they need the care, and these parents are nice parents but then, all my utilities have to be in used all day regardless of the amout of children and it is going to be more costly. My lanlord keeps saying that everything is going be be back to normal, really? when? there are so many other preschools in my area dealing with the same problem, no children. In the meantime he is expecting to get a full rent after everything gos back to normal, he is planning in his mind "very soon" for now he was only able to reduced my rent for less than half. I do not know what is going to happen with my preschool, but my husband's predictions are "not good at all" so my hope is that this lanlord doesn't decide to take me to court for breaking my lease. If i have to. I am sorry. I guess i am just venting this frustration that i feel, only people that are wearing the same shoes, can relate. Let us continue to pray for guidance. Have a great day Tim.

    ------------------------------
    Sandra Rodriguez
    Director
    Beautiful MInds Academy LLC
    Orange City FL
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  • 5.  RE: Is It Worth Going Into Further Debt to Provide Services for "Essential Workers"

    Posted 21 days ago
    Hi Sandra,

    I understand your frustration completely.  We closed on March 26th and reopened on April 20th.  We only reopened because we had received the PPP loan.  We have been reopened for about 3 weeks now and even though the Stay at Home orders have expired and the Texas Governor is letting more businesses reopen, we are still not seeing an increase in enrollment or attendance.  We are averaging around 25 to 30 students at one location and 40 -45 at our second location, which are the same numbers we were at right before we closed.  At a mininum I will need to be at 60 students at each locations by the end of May in order to be able to cover payroll and pay the other bills and taxes.  We won't be profitable and will just be breaking even.

    We are currently restricted to having either 8 or 9 students per classroom due to social distancing and we would normally have double that in each classroom prior to Covid crisis.  So the most I can have at our first location is 70 students and 52 students at the second location.  Prior to Covid we were at 125 students at the first location and 94 students at the second location.  We also had another 220 students at our 5 after-school programs which have been completely shut down since March 9th and won't reopen until the Fall.

    My business partner and I discussed today possible getting an EIDL loan to give us some breathing room.  Our PPP funds run out the first week of June.  We looked at taking out a 6 month loan to cover payroll and our other expenses until our revenues and enrollments picked up.  At a minimum we were looking at a loan in the amount of $660,000.00 just to cover our payroll cost for 45 employees for that period of time.  We already have a major loan out from the construction of a new center building 6 years ago.  The idea of having to take out another "unforgivable loan" is daunting to say the least.  We are already just getting by with the $230,000.00 PPP loan which is forgivable but will only cover the 8 weeks and we only have 3 weeks left on that.

    With all this being said, it doesn't matter if someone has a small center or a big center or multiple centers.  You have to have enough revenues coming into to cover the expenses, so you either have to take out a loan to keep things going or just close permanently until there is some "free" money made available by the government to subsidy the losses and so far that hasn't happened yet.

    Hopefully more will be done, once more families start complaining that they are unable to find childcare and go back to work.  I think that is the only thing that is going to get the politicians attention.

    If you need to "blow off some more steam", please continue to share you thoughts and ideas.  The more of us that try to figure this thing out, the more likely we will come up with a solution that will help everyone.

    Sending you good vibes from Texas.

    Tim

    ------------------------------
    Tim Kaminski
    Director/Owner
    Gingerbread Kids Academy
    Richmond TX
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  • 6.  RE: Is It Worth Going Into Further Debt to Provide Services for "Essential Workers"

    Posted 20 days ago
    Good Morning Tim,
    Thank you so much for sharing more. Not that i am happy this is happening to you but like you said, no matter how big or small your childcare center is; we are all struggling financially and we are not alone in this journey. You are obviously losing and not gaining. This must be extremely hard. I feel like the CDC rules are hard to implement because of the financial outcome. I have some home childcare center owners calling me asking me for advice and it is so hard to see them suffering too. I am to the point where i just want to throw the towel. I have been home and thinking of what is my next step if this does not work out. I have a few other ideas and maybe it is time to take a different route. If this work out, i will still be happy and grateful. Children are my passion and that is why i started this journey. Thanks again. And enjoy this day!

    ------------------------------
    Sandra Rodriguez
    Director
    Beautiful MInds Academy LLC
    Orange City FL
    ------------------------------



  • 7.  RE: Is It Worth Going Into Further Debt to Provide Services for "Essential Workers"

    Posted 04-23-2020 08:55 AM
    Hi Tim,
    We are in the same situation as you. The past month has been a roller coaster making decision to protect the safety of the children and staff. We lost most of our private payers families and the only revenue that is sustaining barely our operations is childcare assistance from the state. My directors and I have been busier than ever creating policies and procedures that the CDC requires. And yes, you are right the essential personnel is barely bringing the children to our centers to minimize the risk of exposure. I am very optimistic that we will return to our normal lives and our families will come back because we are a family community. However, the governors keep extending the stay-home order and that creates anxiety because people long for their normal lives. The purpose of this message is to tell you that you are not alone, and at the end of this pandemic, I believe our profession will be lifted. I believe, it is part of our character as early childhood education center owners: support the families and our staff that need us even if they are a few.

    ------------------------------
    Ruth Porta
    Administrator
    La Esperanza Child Development Center, LLC
    Albuquerque NM
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  • 8.  RE: Is It Worth Going Into Further Debt to Provide Services for "Essential Workers"

    Posted 04-23-2020 09:29 AM




  • 9.  RE: Is It Worth Going Into Further Debt to Provide Services for "Essential Workers"

    Posted 04-23-2020 01:28 PM
    Hello Tim,
    Are looking to reopen our center to serve our essential worker families. I have created a outline for what is needed and how we will follow all the guidance we have been given from the different agencies. Besides being able to provide the staff coverage, as you have probably also faced, some teachers do not feel comfortable working during the pandemic, I am having difficulty getting simple things like gloves and masks. These are basic things that should be made available to us if we are remaining open, but either they can't be found or we have to pay more then we usually do to get them. I agree that part of the plan for us remaining open should of been, the guarantee of supplies needed and a way to supplement funds so that the basic cost of us being open is covered.
    None of us entered this profession thinking to earn big bucks, we did it to answer a calling. We are passionate about our profession and continue to work hard so that we are not viewed as babysitters. A lot of thought went into the guidelines for centers to remain open, but not so much on how to make that happen or the support that would be needed. Cheers and applause for the centers that a struggling to remain open or are working to reopen! I know the children are so happy to be able to see their loving and supportive caregivers and teachers each day.....even if it is behind a face mask.

    ------------------------------
    Tara Gray
    Director
    Cornerstone Children's Center
    Berkeley CA
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  • 10.  RE: Is It Worth Going Into Further Debt to Provide Services for "Essential Workers"

    Posted 04-23-2020 02:58 PM
    Hi Tara,

    Obviously I can totally appreciate your struggle.  I look at this as another unfunded mandate from the Government.  They want us to be open, then they throw a bunch of restrictions at us, which are necessary for us to be open, but then don't take into consideration what its going to cost us and even if its feasible.  And then they still want us to make it affordable for the families.  I don't think anything will change until we get multiple people, with actual childcare business experience, elected to public office at the local, state and federal levels.  I have actually decided to run for our County Judge position in Texas for the next election cycle.

    We have had some limited success, getting some supplies donated to us by posting on Facebook and other social media sites.  We have also asked our families to help us source supplies to try to help us keep going.

    Best wishes for your reopening.

    Tim Kaminski

    ------------------------------
    Tim Kaminski
    Director/Owner
    Gingerbread Kids Academy
    Richmond TX
    ------------------------------