‘It doesn’t make any sense:’ Childcare center owner says industry getting crushed by COVID-19

‘It doesn’t make any sense:’ Childcare center owner says industry getting crushed by COVID-19

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - When someone steps foot inside Mary Anita Nursery & Preschool, he or she will see things are different. Temperature checks, small class sizes, and constant cleaning have become the new normal for owner Cortnie Collins.

“The main thing is contact tracing,” Collins said.

Collins closed her early education center in March, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. She closed in the middle of the busy season, with enrollment at 70 students. When she reopened in June, that number slipped to 25, due in part to strict state regulations governing childcare centers.

“Spring is my huge season,” Collins said. “So when you take away that good season, not only are we looking at trouble trying to get through your lower seasons, you’re definitely taking away your ability to make improvements [to the business].”

The enrollment difference is evident in Collins’ monthly financial reports. According to the paperwork, her business lost $10,000 in May alone. But Collins’ stashed her Paycheck Protection Program loan while she was closed. That money has allowed her to stay in business for the time being.

“Payroll is your biggest expense in child care,” Collins said. “It’s over 50 percent. By the grace of God, I kept my PPP loan that I was granted.”

Other owners have not been as lucky. In an email Collins obtained from the Kentucky Inspector General, 262 childcare centers are closed across the state. It’s a problem felt across the country.

On Wednesday, the United States House of Representatives passed a $60 billion bailout bill for childcare centers nationwide. Collins told WAVE 3 News she’s hoping to see some of that money at some point.

The state guidelines prevent her from taking in more students unless she hires more staff, which would be another blow to her bottom line. If those regulations continue, without help from the government, Collins is concerned her nearly decade-old business will fold.

“There is a whole lot of unknowns and that’s what this situation has been about is unknowns,” Collins said. “And that’s why it’s been very hard. No business operates by winging it.”

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Daycare closures bring new hardships for Kentucky families