Childcare industry in Sacramento struggles to survive pandemic

Local News

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) – The COVID-19 pandemic has had an enormous impact on child care in Sacramento, as workers have had to adapt to changing policies for a year and a half.

For president and CEO of Milestones Child Development Centers Inc. Aimee Walker, the trouble started in March of 2020.

“We all thought it’d be a couple weeks, or maybe a month or maybe it’ll be done by summer, and here we are a year and a half in,” Walker said. “Families stopped coming because they were concerned. Some of my staff never got a penny, so the last thing I wanted to do was cut their wages, reduce hours or put them on unemployment.”

Despite her best efforts, multiple COVID-19 exposures forced Walker to close two of her centers on March 18.

“Between the two schools we’ve closed for quarantine five times,” Walker explained.

“Even before the pandemic, there wasn’t enough childcare slots available for families and working families,” said District 6 Councilman Eric Guerra. “In Sacramento, during the pandemic, 156 child care centers closed and that’s about 12% of the region’s supply, and 272 child care homes have closed and that’s 41% of the regional supply. So we’ve lost a tremendous amount of resources.”

Councilman Guerra says the pandemic created not only health concerns but economic ones for the local childcare industry, and as childcare costs rise and worker salaries remain stagnant. Guerra hopes progress can be made through more funding.

“There’s conversation about $450 billion coming from the federal government in child care,” Guerra said. “The strategy to address the childcare shortage has to be multi-pronged, not only helping those who had to close because of COVID but looking at areas where we can reopen.”

Yet with an unbalanced ratio of caregivers to children and the prevalence of the delta variant, Sacramento’s childcare industry may struggle a little while longer.

“I have a 3-year-old and a 12-week-old new baby, and so childcare for us is also a concern,” Guerra told FOX40.

“My staff is my family and I feel incredibly responsible to take care of them and their families and that means trying to stay open for as long as possible,” Walker said.

Walker says Councilman Guerra has been extremely helpful with her business and others in the local childcare industry.

Guerra says the city is in the process of establishing a task force to tackle this specific issue.

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