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Many North Carolina child care centers say they may close without extra funding

A group of kids dance and jump into the air at a playground at the Alliance Center for Education, on Baltimore Avenue.
Elvis Menayese
A group of kids dance and jump into the air at a playground at the Alliance Center for Education, on Baltimore Avenue.

The last of the $1.3 billion in federal funding that supported child care centers in North Carolina during the coronavirus pandemic and the last few years runs out in June. According to a recent survey, nearly three in 10 child care programs in the state anticipate closing if funding is not extended.

Federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act helped North Carolina's child care centers increase salaries, retain staff, and offer other benefits. The North Carolina Child Care Resource and Referral Council contacted child care programs throughout the state and heard back from around a third of them.

The survey responses show centers anticipate being unable to maintain salaries and expect challenges in hiring experienced educators.

If the grants end, 29% of centers said they’d have to close. The council says that could translate into the loss of nearly 92,000 child care spots. Nearly all centers said they’d have to increase parents’ fees immediately or shortly after June.

Janet Singerman, CEO of Charlotte-based nonprofit Child Care Resources Inc., said in a statement, "North Carolina child care providers are struggling and are warning they’ll go under without these funds."

“Classroom teachers are leaving due to low compensation, waiting lists for child care are growing, parents can’t afford to pay more, and employers can’t afford to have more people sitting out of the employment market," Singerman said. "The state’s child care teachers, program operators, parents, and employers need this lifeline."

Some centers have already closed. In October, Southwestern Child Development announced the closure of seven child care programs in North Carolina’s westernmost counties. Those centers served nearly 300 children combined.

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Elvis Menayese is a Report for America corps member covering issues involving race and equity for WFAE. He previously was a member of the Queens University News Service. Major support for WFAE's Race & Equity Team comes from Novant Health and Wells Fargo.