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Could huge difference in state funding to Northeast Ohio day cares cause your child’s center to close?

Published: Apr. 1, 2022 at 12:05 AM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Parents know that i’s important to feel good about where you leave your child when you’re busy.

So, what if the day care you trust significantly raised rates, or worse, suddenly closed for good?

19 Investigates discovered it’s a real possibility to be prepared for in today’s market.

Day care owners told 19 Investigates they are struggling to stay afloat post-pandemic, and some believe the powers at be are not helping every center equally.

We found that the state is funneling funds to several centers to help them recoup what they lost during the pandemic.

But— there’s a huge difference in the amount of money certain centers can get.

We’re asking why—and whether every child is benefiting fairly under the state’s grant program.

THURSDAY AT 11:

Posted by Hannah Catlett on Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Delilah Radeff is 17 months old.

Her mom works for a mortgage company and her dad is an accountant. Both jobs require more focus than you can give if also watching a toddler.

“You could not have a kid under the age of five at home and actually keep them safe, unless you are going to lock them in the room with you and that’s not fair at all and not fun for anyone,” Delilah’s dad Keegan Radeff said.

He and his wife Amanda, like many working parents, know finding good childcare is hard.

“Even at the prices that we are paying, the workers aren’t paying nearly enough,” they said.

It’s no secret that it got even harder for parents when the pandemic hit—but what many may not realize, is that the centers themselves say they are still struggling.

The day care owner we interviewed says he’s bringing in less than half the money he was before COVID hit.

“We are probably not even 50 percent of pre-pandemic capacity,” he said.

He asked we not identify him for fear of repercussions—as he’s calling into question the state’s process of dolling out grant money to help centers like his.

“I contacted you folks because, I had tried contacting the state and did not get an adequate response,” he said.

The grants come from the American Rescue Plan Act.

The money can be put towards staff retention, rent, utilities and even improving classroom technology.

Each day care can apply for money based on its size.

Each daycare can apply for a certain amount of grant money based on its size.
Each daycare can apply for a certain amount of grant money based on its size.(WOIO)

A medium sized day care with capacity for up to 99 kids gets about $2,000 more than a small center and a large day care gets about $5,000 more at the next step up.

When the state rolled out the most recent phase of grants two new categories were created: extra-large and extra-extra-large.

“The next jump you would think it’d be like $7,000 or $8,000,well that jumps up over $70,000,” the day care owner pointed out.

19 Investigates discovered huge daycares in Ohio can apply for significantly more money than...
19 Investigates discovered huge daycares in Ohio can apply for significantly more money than those licensed for fewer kids.(WOIO)

Why? The state says it created the new categories after hearing feedback from larger centers about their operation costs.

In an email, a spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services said, “We added the additional categories based on the feedback we received from providers in the first round pertaining to the costs associated with running larger programs. I’d also emphasize that this is an iterative process and we will continue to make changes as we learn more.”

“I don’t disagree that it does cost more, because you’re going to have larger buildings, but its such a large difference I’m not sure how they came up with that number, because it still costs all of us a lot to run our business,” the day care owner told us.

The state spokesperson also said, “The process for awarding the grants was developed by a team experienced with the State’s child care program and included input from the child care community. This remains an iterative process subject to change based on lessons learned during each phase.”

The day care owner to contacted us owns a center that falls into the large category.

“We’re trying to keep child care affordable for families, and the rates that people are looking to make now it’s going to force child cares to do a couple different things,” he said.

They may cut hours, raise rates or even possibly close all together.

He says he has the ability to add more kids under his current license, but he can’t find the staff to do it.

In the last two years, he says several teachers retired early or switched career paths.

Without the staff to take more kids, income stays too low to pay the bills.

“If we’re not here and can’t get the funding to stay open we’re going to close,” he said.

The first day care the Radeffs picked for their daughter shut its doors last fall.

“They handed us this little piece of paper flyer,” Keegan said. “I immediately started looking.”

The quest for a new setup wasn’t easy.

“Price was a big factor for us,” he said.

We’ll tell you how much more they’re paying now compared to their last center in our story Friday at 6 o’clock.

And, we will explain what could happen if more day cares close.

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