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Eastern Iowa childcare providers dealing with crisis “worse” than pre-pandemic

Updated: May. 19, 2021 at 6:20 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - After a trying year, Ashley Meyer with KidsPoint Learning Center and Preschool in Cedar Rapids remains hopeful, to get staff back in their doors. Right now, 330 children come to the center and they’re seeing a waitlist.

“Some of the waitlist is for staffing reasons and for some, we are full in some of our classrooms,” Meyer said.

It’s the same at Collins Aerospace Day Academy. Staffing issues have them not able to take in as many children, but both are taking more questions about when and if space will open.

“Pre-COVID we had 350 children. When COVID hit March 2020, we dropped down to 35 for a couple months. We are back up now to about 260,” said Miranda Niemi, Director at the academy.

They have 63 staff members down from 75 pre-COVID. At KidsPoint, it’s 60. Neimi says finding qualified staff has always been a challenge and right now, the situation has gotten worse for parents.

“I know we were close to being at a childcare desert,” Niemi said.

Since July of 2020, Linn County has experienced permanent closure of 28 child care providers. That’s more than 420 slots of childcare.

“We’re seeing a lot of spaces that are now no longer available for families that are getting ready to go back into work,” Niemi added.

To get around that, she says administrators have stepped up to fill in when needed. They’ve also been working on advertising more.

“The rate of pay, not just here, but for childcare across the state, we are below so I think that’s where we are losing a lot of our quality people,” she said.

Meyer says they are looking to pay staff more and offering a sign-on bonus. Niemi is on the Governor’s Childcare Task Force and is watching for more state and federal money to handle this crisis.

“I’m hoping for state assistance as well as federal assistance to help us with this crisis because we need some help especially if people are going back to work,” Niemi said.

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