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Wisconsin child care industry on verge of crisis as pandemic-era subsidy comes to end

Wisconsin child care industry on verge of crisis
Wisconsin child care industry on verge of crisis 01:42

HUDSON, Wis. -- The impending end of a pandemic-era subsidy has Wisconsin's child care industry on the verge of crisis.

In Hudson, Angela Norvold says she's able to pay her staff at Simply Giggle Childcare a livable wage because of the federal relief money from the Child Care Counts program.

The funding goes toward any number of a Wisconsin day care's expenses, but the program's slowed this year and ends in January.

Norvold's been forced to raise her prices.

"Our first tuition hike was about a 25 percent increase," she said. "I think we'll have to go to a 35, 40 percent increase [if the program ends]."

Gov. Tony Evers called a special session Wednesday in hopes of continuing funding the program, but the Republican-controlled legislature ended the session immediately.

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Norvold was in Madison for the session to help advocate.

"It was sad," she said. "It really feels like our livelihood does not matter."

Norvold says three families have pulled their kids out of Simply Giggle because they can no longer afford it.

"For parents, the panic meter is probably pushing 10, if not over, right now," said Ruth Schmidt, the executive director of the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association.

Schmidt says close to 90 percent of day cares are bumping up tuition, and bout one in three are considering closing altogether.

The effects of losing funding could be especially dire for rural areas.

"There are many communities in Wisconsin where there is no care," Schmidt said. "There are communities where families have to drive 25, 30 miles to get to care, let alone the question of affordability."

Wisconsin Republicans have proposed loosening regulations as a possible fix, such as adding more kids to the classroom and lowering the teaching age.

Child care providers and advocates say that wouldn't solve the issues at hand.

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