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From the Field: Child Care Scholarships for Employees Work

From the Field: Child Care Scholarships for Employees Work
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Jenn Hosmer, Children's Center of the Upper Valley

Jenn Hosmer is the executive director of Children's Center of the Upper Valley, a child care center founded in 1971 and licensed to serve 95 children in Lebanon, NH.

The Children’s Center of the Upper Valley (CCUV) is a licensed child care facility that can serve up to 95 children daily. Our Center is open longer than most and serves breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon snack to those enrolled in our program. To operate daily, the Center requires additional staffing to cover 11.5 hours of care and food preparation.

For many years before COVID-19, it was challenging to find qualified staff. Positions were often vacant for several weeks, if not months. Then COVID-19 came and only amplified the problem of filling those positions, leaving vacant classrooms and unfilled slots for children. Now that the world is four years into the pandemic, centers are struggling to keep their doors open, and staffing is a major component.

When we are lucky enough to find a good employee, we do everything possible to keep them. On average, one employee can help fill 10 child care spaces in a center. At CCUV, there are currently six employees who have children enrolled at the Center. The Center has always offered discounts on child care to employees, ranging from 20%-40% depending on years employed. Even with those discounts, child care is still not affordable, esphttps://www.ccuv.orgecially to those who are from single-parent households or have multiple children in child care.

One of our employees, who has one child enrolled at the Center and is from a married household, was ready to give their notice because she could no longer afford the weekly tuition. As a Center, we decided to increase her hourly wage and give her a larger discount than she was eligible for at the time. Another employee, who was returning to work after maternity leave with two children now needing care, could not pay for a month until regular paychecks were coming in. The Center had again had to decide whether to have the employee return without paying tuition or to have the employee not return at all.

Not all centers are able to afford to make decisions like these. We could not afford to lose those employees, and I am happy to report they are both still with us today. These two real examples demonstrate how subsidized child care directly translates to retaining child care employees. These scenarios further demonstrate just how critical it is for New Hampshire to pass and implement SB 404, which would provide all New Hampshire child care workers with automatic eligibility to the New Hampshire Child Care Scholarship Program regardless of household income.

While centers want to give employees child care discounts, it does come with a cost to the bottom line. Each year, CCUV loses around $7,500 in employee childcare discounts. It may not sound like a significant amount of money to some, but it is when centers are barely scraping by. Being able to allocate that money towards employee wages instead of increasing family tuition would benefit everyone - the center, our staff, and the families we serve. Having employees automatically qualify for child care scholarships would take some of the burden of paying for child care, putting their families in a better financial position.

This benefit would also attract new talent to the child care field and bring back those who have departed due to the need for higher-paying jobs to support their families. Imagine being a center that can tell new hires they would automatically qualify for child care scholarship. Additionally, qualifying for such subsidies is like increasing a person’s hourly rate.

There is no question that child care centers statewide are facing an ongoing staffing crisis. There is no line out the door with resumes being dropped off to hire the next person. Weeks and months go by without replacing the employee who left. Staff and administration now have to work longer hours to cover the vacant shifts.

Families with young children cannot afford to live or work in the Granite State without child care. Yet, the child care industry will never attract new employees unless something is done to help. SB 404 is so important to pass for the future of child care in New Hampshire.

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Jenn Hosmer is the executive director of Children's Center of the Upper Valley, a child care center founded in 1971 and licensed to serve 95 children in Lebanon, NH.

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