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A list of procedures in use to decrease the risk of novel coronavirus COVID-19 infection, posted on an exterior door of Mother's Choice Child Care Center in Baton Rouge, seen Thursday, April 9, 2020. They're one of the few day care centers open still during the novel coronavirus COVID-19 public health threat that has shut down many businesses.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating impacts on Louisiana’s businesses and economy. To fully recover, we need to ensure that young children in our state are safe within a child care environment once their parents go back to work.

We know that Louisiana loses in big ways when working parents cannot access reliable, quality child care. Our state had issues before the pandemic. Past analyses show that child care breakdowns cost Louisiana’s businesses $816 million per year and the state economy $1.1 billion a year. We know that a significant number of people in our workforce have young children and therefore need child care in order to return to work.

A recent study by the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children, where I serve on the board, found that if this pandemic continues as it is expected to, 35% of child care businesses reported they will not be able to reopen because they face a host of financial barriers. The child care providers that have remained open through this crisis are taking on serious losses, jeopardizing their future financial viability. If these centers completely shut down, Louisiana’s workforce will be left with even fewer options for child care than before the pandemic.

Lack of access to quality child care will cripple Louisiana’s recovery efforts and grind our economy to a standstill, potentially leaving us in a far worse state than we can imagine. As of April 4, over 220,000 Louisianans have applied for unemployment, affecting an estimated 19,500 children age 6 and younger. The state needs these people back at work as soon as it is possible and safe to revive Louisiana’s economy in the coming weeks and months.

People are and have been getting attuned to the fact that early care and education is both a workforce issue and a way to defeat poverty in our state. Before COVID-19, we had bipartisan support in our Legislature. Businesses, constituents, and advocates alike were hopeful that we could get increased funding for early care and education during the 2020 legislative session. While the federal COVID-19 relief packages include valuable initial measures to address the needs of child care providers, more can and must be done at the state level.

Once our legislators reconvene to begin the formidable process of finalizing the state budget, it is imperative that they keep child care in mind for the sake of our workers, businesses and economy.

MICHAEL OLIVIER

president, Committee of 100 for Economic Development Inc.

Baton Rouge

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