New COVID-19 guidelines poised to dramatically alter how child care facilities operate

Updated: May. 26, 2020 at 11:23 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Department of Human Services released new safety guidelines Tuesday for childcare providers that are resuming or continuing operations.

To help with social distancing, some providers will have to provide services to far fewer children.

And that means even fewer options for parents who are desperate for help.

Deborah Zysman, executive director for Hawaii Children Action Network, said some facilities are an impossible situation. “I’ve heard from numerous childcare providers today. They’re worried about how they will choose if they can only serve half as many families, how will they pick,” she said.

Zysman says the current ratio for preschool is 16 children per one adult and 20 children for one adult in elementary school. Under new guidelines from DHS, though, there should one adult for every nine children.

“I am absolutely aware that this is not going to be sufficient as our economy continues to reopen in an incremental fashion, we need more slots for childcare,” said DHS Director Pankaj Bhanot.

To help, eligible childcare providers may apply for federal funds being distributed by the state. "These opportunities will support families and provide an injection of funds to help Hawaii’s economy,” said Gov. David Ige.

That money can be used to pay for additional staffing, more supplies, safety equipment and many other things.

Zysman agreed that the additional dollars are much-needed.

“We’re very happy with the Department of Human Services putting out some contract funding," she said.

“We feel like it helps to throw a life vest out to childcare providers who are really struggling right now. We are concerned that it’s not enough.”

Zysman is calling on the state Legislature to provide additional support and asking employers for leniency on some company policies.

“I think honestly some creativity on the part of businesses is going to be needed as well. Are businesses willing to have children in the office? Are they willing to allow workers to keep working at home for a much longer period?”

Providers can apply for funding through July 31.

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