As demand grows for child care, the need for staff does too

Orange County News

CARRBORO, N.C. (WNCN)– Anna Mercer-McLean will admit, getting back to normal is still and uphill climb. 

“As we try to come back to some normalcy, there are still challenges,” she said. 

“It has been helpful to have operating grants from the state to be able to maintain and we will continue to need a few more of those,” mentioned McLean. 

McLean is the director of the Community School for People Under Six in Carrboro. 

As COVID-19 restrictions loosen statewide, she said they are seeing more calls for enrollment.   

There’s even a wait list now. 

“There seems to be an increase of interest for families with 3-year-olds,” McLean stated. 

While she said they didn’t have to let go staff during the pandemic, many places had no choice but to. 

Which makes things tricky. 

“Demand is increasing every day, but programs are struggling to fully meet that demand,” said Michele Rivest, Senior Campaign Director of NC Early Education Coalition 

Rivest said it’s because child care centers cannot find teachers to come back. 

“They [teachers] went to work at Amazon or Target or Walmart or retail where they were paying $15 per hour.  Whereas our typical childcare programs, even in the Triangle, pay on average $12 an hour and don’t offer a full benefits package,” she explained. 

Just like the restaurant industry, she also said staff members are unlikely to return.  

However, she says there’s a bright spot. 

“The silver lining in all of this is that we now have the state and federal resources to make the change we need to make,” Rivest said. 

Recently, North Carolina received $1.3 billion from the latest federal COVID-19 relief package.  Part of that to rebuild the child care industry. 

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