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Child Care Subsidy For Essential Workers Set To Expire

A child care subsidy for essential workers expires this weekend, but there's funding making its way through the General Assembly that could help.

The aid program was set up by the state health and human services department for workers like nurses and bus drivers after the governor issued his stay-at-home order.

A new bill in the North Carolina House would allocate more than $121 million to help childcare facilities cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. It would provide personal protective equipment and bonus pay for care providers, and access to consultants to offer strategies for stemming the spread of disease.

Carolyn King runs Majestic Learning Experience daycare out of her home in Cary. She said the subsidy program was a lifeline for her, too, because half the children she regularly cares for have stopped coming.

"Not because the parents didn't want to continue coming, but they lost their jobs or they're working from home," she said. "They're hoping that they'll be able to come back and that their children will still be able to attend Majestic."

With the end of the subsidy for essential workers, King said only one of the families she serves can afford to send their children to her center next week.

Cassandra Brooks also supports the legislation. She owns Little Believers Academy in Garner and Clayton and said her profit margins were thin already before the pandemic. She said now both centers have lost more than 60% of their revenue.

Brooks said she hasn't had to lay off employees yet, but several of her childcare workers have had to leave work to care for their school-aged children.

"We need to do everything in our power to make sure that these teachers are here and able to receive those same children once we're able to fully return as normal," she said.

Democratic Representative Julie von Haefen said she hopes to garner bipartisan support for the measure, or to see its elements incorporated into other bills.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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