Valley child care centers must adjust after end of federal subsidies

Published: Oct. 3, 2023 at 5:16 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 3, 2023 at 6:20 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Childcare centers in the Valley and across the country are beginning to feel the effects of the ending of federal childcare subsidies. Since the pandemic, millions of dollars in American Can Rescue Plan funds have gone to help stabilize childcare centers across the country but those funds ran out on Saturday.

Now many childcare centers are left in a tough spot. Like many others, the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Child Day Care Center received COVID relief money, and with that no longer available things are going to be much tighter financially.

“We’ll slowly need to make adjustments. Our biggest concern right now, our biggest struggle, is keeping, retaining, and finding staff members. The subsidy funding helped us tremendously to be able to pay the staff the wages they deserved to be paid,” said Delores Jameson, Executive Director of Harrisonburg-Rockingham Child Day Care Center.

The biggest challenge for the childcare center will now be trying to maintain staff pay levels without increasing the cost of childcare.

”The subsidy money helped programs keep rates affordable to families so the money from the subsidies helped our program continue to operate and pay our staff without increasing tuition,” said Jameson.

Now without the subsidies available, the childcare center will have to try to find the right balance between affordability for families and appropriate wages for staff.

“If you raise staff salaries then you have to raise tuition so it’s a constant battle of can you find people that are willing to work for lower wages in this profession,” said Jameson.

Another challenge locally is that the need for child care in the area far outweighs what is available.

“There is always a need for more childcare spaces. The majority of the programs here in Harrisonburg are completely full, I get two to three phone calls every day asking if I have any openings,” said Jameson.

Jameson said that the majority of childcare centers in the area have wait lists and that there are not enough childcare centers available to offer care to all of the families in the community that need it. She said that she hopes the area’s childcare centers are able to weather the loss of the federal subsidies.

“Our community can not afford to lose any more childcare centers so I do hope we can all continue to move forward and do ok, that we’re able to offer the spots that we have now. It’d be great to see even more openings,” said Jameson.