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Department of Human Services releases Penn State Study on Impact of COVID-19 on Pennsylvania’s child care providers

Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller released a Penn State University study of COVID- 19’s impact on Pennsylvania’s child care industry. The study, completed by researchers at Penn State Harrisburg’s Institute of State and Regional Affairs, includes recommendations for distribution of a third round of CARES Act funding to ensure that this critical sector remains financially solvent and available to provide safe and high-quality child care to Pennsylvania’s working families.
“We realized early in this crisis that the child care industry was likely to be hit particularly hard, and that’s why we asked Penn State to take a close look at this issue back in April,” Miller said. “I’m extremely grateful to the researchers who took on the task of closely studying the impact of COVID-19 on Pennsylvania’s child care providers so that we would have a road map going forward to inform our decisions about funding and policies to keep this critical service available to working families.”
The impact study analyzes the financial costs of the COVID-19 crisis to child care providers, the possibility of permanent closures as a result of the crisis and the level of investment needed to sustain the industry during a transitional period of low demand and after the crisis has subsided. Penn State researchers drew conclusions from both detailed surveys distributed to hundreds of child care providers throughout Pennsylvania and also a smaller number of personal interviews with child care providers and workers.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how essential child care is to working families and employers, in addition to highlighting the fragility of the child care system,” said Dr. Philip Sirinides, director of Penn State Harrisburg’s Institute of State and Regional Affairs. “Without assistance, the impacts of COVID-19 will continue to be felt for months or possibly years as child care providers try to re-open, rebuild, and traverse their new normal.”
Before the COVID-19 crisis, 7,017 licensed child care providers were operating in Pennsylvania. As of late July, more than 200 of those providers have indicated an intention to permanently close their doors.
Penn State’s study estimates about 1,000 additional providers are at risk of closure without financial assistance to offset ongoing costs of implementing COVID-19 guidelines and reduced enrollments.

The department’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL), which licenses Pennsylvania child care providers, is using the study’s recommendations to guide distribution of about $116 million in federal CARES Act funding allocated for child care. OCDEL is working on a distribution plan that will maximize the positive impact of the funds, and DHS will announce more information in the coming weeks. Distribution of the funds is tentatively scheduled for late August.
The Wolf Administration has twice previously distributed rounds of CARES Act funding to child care providers to support the industry through the COVID-19 crisis. About $51 million in CARES Act Child Care Development Funds was distributed to eligible child care providers in June, followed by about $53 million more in July.
“The loss of any child care providers is a significant loss for Pennsylvania and an added burden for working families who need access to high-quality, affordable child care,” Miller said. “We need to do everything we can to help this industry recover and continue providing its crucial service. Our economy depends on it.”