Ohioans are being called back to work this week as more and more businesses reopen, but childcare will not be available to working families until Sunday, May 31, at the earliest.
Gov. Mike DeWine announced that daycares will be allowed to reopen, but they won’t be the same as before. Class sizes will be significantly reduced, and other mandatory policies and practices must be in place. Infants and toddlers will be restricted to six per room with a maximum of nine permitted per room for older children. Masks and other precautions for staff members will be a requirement.
DeWine said more details on those requirements will not be made public until Friday.
State Representative Susan Manchester is calling for the governor’s administration to make reopening childcare a priority so that Ohioans can return to work with confidence that their children are being cared for and safe.
Most childcare providers are fundamentally small businesses. It is unknown how many will decide not to come back after being closed for over nine weeks. Daycare services operate on a narrow profit margin and some may decide that reopening is futile.
For those do reopen, it will be necessary to significantly increase rates due to smaller class sizes. This will hit families at the lowest income levels the hardest.
The childcare sector, which was already fragile and in need of strengthening and expansion, now appears it will be weakened further and may be inadequate to meet demand and unaffordable to lower-income families.
This will undeniably put added stress on Ohio’s working families.
“We know that Ohio’s childcare providers will need assistance as they reopen,” said DeWine.
He said Ohio is utilizing more that $60 million in federal dollars through the CaresAct funding to provide reopening grants to Ohio’s childcare providers. DeWine said these grants will be available to both public and private daycares for two to three months. More information will be posted on the state website.
DeWine announced that summer day camps can reopen on May 31st as well if they can meet safety protocols. Protocols will be released by the end of the day tomorrow.
Rep. Manchester urged the administration to form a workgroup devoted to planning for statewide access to childcare. “As Ohioans return to work, working parents need immediate access to reliable, safe and quality childcare,” Manchester said in a letter to the governor’s administration.
“Childcare programs already adhere to strict cleanliness and disinfecting standards and have indicated their willingness to comply with any additional requirements deemed necessary,” the representative said.
Lack of childcare is not a valid excuse for not returning to work, according to the state. Businesses have reportedly been told to report employees to the unemployment office if they refuse to return to work so that benefits to those individuals can be stopped.