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WKYT Investigates: Rising cost of childcare

Published: Aug. 30, 2021 at 4:05 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Parents sending their kids back to daycares this fall might notice the cost of care is on the rise.

The Center for American Progress estimates the cost has nearly doubled. Right before the start of the pandemic, the national average for a toddler to go to daycare was $9,000/year. Now, the annual cost is nearly $18,000.

“There’s not a lot of money in childcare to begin with. So, you juggle what’s important and do the best you can,” notes Sharlene Marcum, owner of The Gingerbread Academy in Georgetown.

Marcum closed The Gingerbread Academy at the start of the pandemic, per governor’s orders. When she finally re-opened, she found her self spending more money than ever on masks, wipes, and disinfectants. She also was spending more on her employees.

“You have to try to take care of them, give bonuses, buy lunch, anything to encourage and uplift them, and to keep them,” says Marcum. She admits finding qualified workers was hard pre-pandemic. “We can go through the process. We advertise. We get people to reach out to us, and then they don’t show up. And we’ve gone as far as to actually hire them and have everything set up in the computers for them to start work and it’s a no-show.”

Marcum uses federal rescue plan money to help with expenses. The extra funding is keeping her doors open, and keeping tutition rates stable. Marcum hasn’t raised rates in several years.

Not all centers, though, are able to maintain pre-pandemic rates. Bradley Stevenson advocates for centers throughout the state. He knows of many struggling.

“Due to COVID there has certainly been some increased cost associated with just the daily cleaning, the additional PPE, that are required - gloves and masks and things of that nature,” says Stevenson. “Staffing is probably the biggest issue right now. It was a problem before COVID, and COVID has exasperated that so much.”

“When I started in childcare I wanted to teach children, and that is one of our goals, our main goal, is to prepare them for kindergarten,” says Marcum. “And in the past year teaching has had to take a second chair.”

This year’s federal COVID relief package provided childcare centers with $39 billion in funding. It also gave families up to $3,600 for kids younger than six, children who are too young for school and whose parents may need to place them in childcare centers.

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