Arizona Plans to Re-open, But Are There Enough Quality Childcare Programs?
Yesterday, Governor Ducey announced his plan for the Arizona economy to re-open in the coming days and weeks. But, the COVID-19 pandemic has created an emerging crisis for child care programs across the state. Because of the pandemic, nearly 75-percent of Arizona’s licensed early care and education programs are now temporarily closed. Survey results in March, 2020 from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) suggest that as many as half of the existing early care and education programs in the state could shut down permanently without financial help.
Recent actions by the Governor’s office, the Department of Economic Security, and First Things First have been welcomed first steps to protecting the survival of the state’s child care sector. Children’s Action Alliance asks that the Governor and Arizona Legislature consider additional measures to shore up an industry that is essential to the re-opening of our state economy.
Arizona was allotted $88 million in federal funding from the recent CARES Act specifically for child care, but the Legislature and the Governor must act to provide appropriations authority before those funds can be utilized. We urge lawmakers and our state agencies to make strategic use of the new federal funds by waiving licensure fees for child care providers and by providing operating grants to centers who are struggling to remain open.
Looking beyond the immediate COVID-19 crisis, Arizona must renew its commitment to invest in high-quality child care programs. A new report from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) warns of the long-term dangers to child care from the COVID-19 crisis and points to the need for bipartisan support to improve child care access and quality, despite serious challenges.
Arizonans have repeatedly demonstrated their support for early childhood funding. It’s time our lawmakers join them.