PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Every family with children and working parents know we've got a childcare problem in this country.
Pandemic-era funding is coming to an end and thousands of child care facilities are closing -- leaving parents with quite the dilemma.
KDKA's John Shumway has been looking into the issue.
The Century Foundation estimates that when the federal childcare investment ends this week, up to 70,000 childcare centers could close with 3.2 million children losing care. Up to 200,000 of those children are here in Pennsylvania.
While the statistics are startling, they are personal to families struggling to find affordable childcare.
"In the last two weeks, five programs that are members of the Pennsylvania Childcare Association have closed and it's because of staffing," said Diane Barber, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Childcare Assocation.
Since the pandemic started, Barber says some have come and some have closed.
"We've got a net loss of about 600 programs," Barber said.
There was pandemic funding and Mary Polley, the Director of St. Paul's Preschool in Hampton says it helped a lot.
"You can use it to help your staff salaries or you could give bonuses to staff," Polley said.
Those dollars are now gone.
With that money no longer available, childcare facilities are struggling to keep or attract qualified workers.
"They can't pay them and people were waiting to go to Target or McDonald's. You know any other place that can pay more than what we can pay?" Polley asked.
"If they can't find staff they can't serve children. They can't open classrooms," Barber said.
And raising rates is a non-starter.
"We try to keep our costs as low as we can for our families because we know it's important," Polley said.
Barber says that while she hears that sentiment a lot, she says that if places don't raise rates, they can't stay in business.
And all of this is coming as more families are forced back to the office and needing childcare help.
"We have more families wanting to use us which is difficult," Polley said. "I have 40 some people on a waitlist."
"If you can't find a place for your child, you can't work," Barber said. "You know whether it's mom can't work or dad can't work or whoever, the whatever the family structures and then you can't pay your bills."
This past Saturday, a long-active childcare facility in Delaware County held its final going-out-of-business sale.
Barber says it's scary when sees childcare places that have been at it for 30 years liquidating their supplies and equipment.
She says that there's no sign of any federal help on the way and just a bit from the state, but it's nowhere close to what is needed.
For parents who may be struggling, Barber says not to give up.
"Continue to reach out to childcare providers that they're that they're interested in to talk to them," Barber said . "I think they also need to talk to their friends and neighbors to see you know, where where their children are going."
Barber suggests using free websites that will search for availability for you and that no matter how desperate you are, don't advertise on places like Facebook or Craigslist. Doing so could open you or your child up to people who are less than reputable or have ill intent.
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