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Childcare centers wonder what happens after federal funding ends

Stu Johnson
Frankfort Announcement Regarding State of Early Childcare Post Federal Support

The owner of a Kentucky early childhood facility says finding a sustainable approach to providing services long-term is challenging. Jennifer Washburn is owner of iKids Childhood Enrichment Center in Benton. She said the exhaustion of federal stabilization funding could mean higher costs to families. Washburn said parent rates were raised 9% last year. She said there could be the need to raise them again.

“Can you imagine, your rates were raised 9%. There’s current inflation. How in the world are you gonna afford an additional rate increase to cover our current teachers' rate of being paid 13 dollars an hour. And again, we’re simply competitive with Walmart,” said Washburn

Washburn said the federal support to help with childcare center employee salaries is scheduled to run out next fall. Washburn was in Frankfort last week when several organizations held a news conference drawing attention to the impending loss of federal funding.

Washburn noted her staff members make 13 dollars an hour. She added any raise in pay must often be balanced with public assistance eligibility.

“So think about that you go to your employee and you say ok I can now pay you 13 dollars an hour or I can pay you 15 dollars an hour and they say wa wa wa wait…I’m going to lose my child’s K-chip. I’m going to lose my health insurance..I can’t do that,” said Washburn.

Washburn said another complicating factor for parents and childcare operators is public preschool. She said children attending Head Start require transportation to childcare facilities and operators can feel a financial pinch to that arrangement.

Stu has been reporting for WEKU for more than 30 years.
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