LOUISVILLE, Ky. — In a special discussion on childcare in Kentucky on Wednesday, the Chamber of Commerce announced their survey showing that 42 percent of centers could be forced to close in the coming months, forced out of business due to the coronavirus shutdown that spanned months.
President Ashli Watts said that would mean some 56,000 kids are out of care. People on the virtual panel hosted by the Kentucky Youth Advocates (KYA) voiced their concerns over the impact of COVID-19. Shawnee Boys & Girls Club Unit Director Clanisha Coleman was included.
"I serve a vulnerable population," Coleman explained. "I am in the west end of Louisville. I serve at least 95 percent of my kiddos and parents are African American. I'm stationed in the low-income community — and so talking, I'm not speaking it into existence — but these are things I need to think about. You close the doors of the Boys & Girls Club, where does that leave our families?"
Coleman says the Boys & Girls Club where she works has been a Dare to Care food distribution center for families during the pandemic. They will resume other services in July, allowing 50 children in at a time.
"I've actually had parents who said they're not comfortable with having their kids come, regardless of what we have as far as masks and handwashing and sanitizing and 10 to a room and things like that," she added.
Once they reopen, she feels donations will be vital. "A lot of the kids that I would have in here, this is the only place that they have to go," she continued, "we're an after school program, you know, so keeping those kids off the street and things like that. The only thing that I can really do right now is to offer resources."
Across Kentucky, there are childcare deserts where working parents struggle to find daytime care for kids. The Chamber is trying to keep that from worsening.
"One thing that I want to make sure that we are all aware of, is how fragile the childcare system is and how in just a short couple of months we may be looking at half of the childcare centers in Kentucky closing down because of this. And so, we have been advocating very strongly for additional CARES Act dollars or additional federal funding to go to these childcare centers," said Watts.