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Mother's Choice Child Care Center owner Donna Blackwell, left, smiles after signing out James LeBlanc, 5, as he's picked up in the center's foyer by his father Josh Daigle, right, before heading home. Having parents ony go as far as the foyer is one of many precautions being taken at the center, one of the few day care centers open still during the novel coronavirus COVID-19 public health threat that has shut down many businesses.

They’ve largely been overshadowed by the great debate over how and even whether to reopen schools this fall, but the coronavirus pandemic is also forcing child care centers to face a moment of truth.

Some have temporarily closed due to public health concerns, and others are experiencing both reduced income because of capacity limits and higher costs from stringent new safety demands. Many are in danger of going under, even as their services are more badly needed than ever. The Center for American Progress estimates that the pandemic could reduce availability of child care spots in Louisiana by more than one-third.

Congress can, and should, help. A memo to members signed by economic development groups in 40 states, including the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, argues that the new relief package under consideration must offer emergency assistance to these small businesses, many of which operate along slim margins even in better times.

“For millions of Americans, returning to work is not just contingent on the lifting of stay-at-home orders and their employer reopening, but on securing care for their children,” the memo said. If the country is going to get back to business, child care can’t be an afterthought.

Parents return to work with lack of affordable child care options; what's expected next