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The cost of child care could jump just as Louisiana gets back to work

As the state now moves into reopening, the concern is whether child care centers, without financial help, will be able to open their doors for working families.

NEW ORLEANS — At Children’s Chalet in St. Tammany Parish, owner Tracy Delatte is trying to decide when she’ll be able to welcome kids back inside her preschool.

“It’s like you’re missing a part of yourself. You’re missing a part of your family,” said Delatte. “They are our family.” 

Like most of the state’s early care and education centers, Children’s Chalet was forced to closed in mid-March because of shutdowns and stay-at-home orders related to COVID-19. As the state now moves into reopening, the concern is whether child care centers, without financial help, will be able to open their doors for working families.

“It’s very stressful and difficult, and I know everybody probably feels the same way with any business,” said Delatte.

When Delatte does reopen, the revenue won’t be as much as it was before. With things like reopening expenses, new sanitization requirements, and enrollment and teacher to child ratio restrictions — those costs add up and could create higher prices for parents. 

To get a handle on it, the nonprofit Louisiana Policy Institute for Children laid out what that looks like financially. 

Based on surveys from child care providers, $46 million in federal money is needed to pay for those added expenses. Another $25 million in state money is needed for child care assistance.  Those findings can be found below in an embedded document below.

“We’re keeping early childcare at the forefront of our minds due to its role in getting our region back to work,” said Michael Hecht, President and CEO of Greater New Orleans Inc.

Hecht says keeping a focus on early childcare education is crucial in getting parents back to work and for the education of children. The economic development organization even put out its own report, highlighting it as a key part in reopening the economy.  That report can be found embedded below.

“We need it now for the good of our children but also for the good of our employees and workers,” said Hecht. 

Twenty-six years as a small business, Delatte now struggles to pay bills and staff. That’s something Camille Conaway with the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry says is common, making the need for investment a priority. 

“Even before COVID-19 Early care and education providers operated on precariously thin profit margins, leaving them especially vulnerable in economic downturns,” said Conaway. 

In this downturn, Delatte says her passion for kids is what keeps her going. 

“To me, that’s the best part of our job. It’s better than the pay of any paying job because you get this love, this unconditional love from these kids,” said Delatte.

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Louisiana Policy Institute for Children survey findings:

Greater New Orleans Inc. report:

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