Crystal Daycare Faces Challenges Providing Care for Children
At Sue’s Crew Daycare in Crystal, children jumped on playground equipment and laughed with friends. The in-home daycare is currently only taking care of children of essential workers.
“I’ve been doing daycare for 21 years, and I have never gone through something like this,” said owner Sue Huston.
While Sue Huston provides care for children of essential workers, she lost some clients who are not mandated to work during this time. As of Friday, she’s down to caring for 10 children. Huston is licensed for up to 14.
“At first, I lost half of my kids. But I was able to replace it because I said I would take essential employee’s kids,” said Huston. “I’ve also lost teacher parents because they can work from home and take care of their children.”
Crystal Daycare Provider: “It is Stressful”
Safety is a top concern for the Crystal daycare provider. Huston doesn’t allow parents to come inside the home anymore, so she meets them at the door. And since many of the clients work with the public, she is also worried about her own family contacting COVID-19.
“It is stressful. I don’t think people realize how stressful this is,” she said.
Huston is putting in extra hours and is currently working 11-hour days to maintain the business. She wipes down toys and playground equipment indoors and outdoors.
“1 and 2-year-olds like to put things in their mouths. I’m putting in one to two hours a night just resanitizing everything to keep our kids safe,” she said.
The Crystal resident says she’s fine financially for now, but worries about the future. Huston says she quadrupled her purchasing of supplies, spending several extra hundred dollars a month to sanitize the facility.
“I go through a can of Lysol spray a day, the large size, and this is not counting the bottles of bleach,” she explained.
Emergency Grants for Licensed Child Care Providers
The Minnesota Legislature last month approved Governor Tim Walz’s $30 million funding proposal to provide emergency grants for licensed child care providers serving essential workers during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Huston applied for the emergency grant, but was denied during the first round of funding. More than 5,300 licensed child care programs and 22 tribal licensed child care providers applied for the funds.
“This is hazard pay and trying to keep up with the supplies we need and the extra money to pay for them,” said Huston about the grants.
Demand Exceeds Available Grant Money
The nonprofit Child Care Aware of Minnesota worked with the Department of Human Services and the governor’s Minnesota Children’s Cabinet to distribute the funds. About $9.8 million in grant money was awarded to 1,278 applicants in the first phase of funding. Monthly grant awards start at $4,500. However, demand exceeded available money. Only about one in four daycare applicants received a grant.
According to a DHS spokesperson, selected applicants will receive an award on a month-to-month basis.
“The purpose of these grants is to respond to emergencies, so the distribution of grants could shift depending on needs and response to the pandemic,” the DHS official said.
Child care providers that didn’t receive a grant will have an opportunity to apply in the second round in mid-May and the third round in mid-June at childcareawaremn.org/providers/emergency-child-care-grants. Huston with Sue’s Crew Daycare does plan to reapply.
About 120,000 children of first responders are likely to need and use licensed child care settings, according to DHS.
Child Care Aware of Minnesota can use up to $450,000 out of the $30 million grant for administration costs. That includes administering the grants, outreach and technical assistance. DHS officials say Child Care Aware expects to spend considerably less than the full amount, and any unspent funds will be redirected into available funding for grants to child care programs.