As Alaska’s economy reopens, Anchorage officials say there’s a child care shortage

(Creative Commons photo by Kids Work Chicago Daycare)

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in business closures, remote schooling, and many people are working from home. And, in Anchorage, it has led to a shortage of available child care.

“We have lost upwards of 5,500 possible spaces for children to be in child care,” said Nicole Lebo, manager of the Human Services Division at the Anchorage Health Department. “That is going to be a hardship for parents and on our economy.”

Speaking at a press briefing Friday, Lebo said of the 24/7 child care facilities in the municipality, only 141 are open right now. That’s about 57%.

The city and local organizations are working to provide resources for child care facilities that are able to open this summer.

“We are going to experience a lack of care this summer,” said Lebo. “We can’t mandate people to open so we’re just trying to do everything possible for people who want to open to give people the help that they need to do so.”

Of those facilities that are open, Lebo said most have space and are able to enroll new children. Information on where those openings are can be found on the municipality’s website, or by getting in touch with Thread Alaska. The organization is also offering financial support to licensed child care facilities. The deadline to apply is May 31.

Mayor Ethan Berkowitz emphasized the importance of child care services, for the entire economy.

“It’s critical for the child’s development,” said Berkowitz. “It’s critical for the ability of a parent or a guardian to go to work on a regular schedule. And it’s part of the rhythm we’ve developed in this country.”

Lebo said she expects to see more providers open up again, now that the state has moved into the second phase of reopening.

Those who do choose to open must have a COVID-19 mitigation plan to ensure the safety of families and employees.