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Pandemic takes a toll on daycare centers across Iowa

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A recent state study shows nearly one-quarter of Iowans live in a "child care desert", an area with little or no licensed providers.

The study also found the annual cost of child care can be higher than college tuition.

Keokuk Community Child Development Center has been open since May 18.

The center just started its summer program on June 1, which has 20 kids.

Staff say they are doing extra cleaning, wearing masks, and getting creative with their activities with recent closures.

"I think it's been hard for them to come back to a new routine," Preschool teacher Nicole Hirte said. "But slowly and surely, they have been definitely getting back into it while having fun with their friends."

It's also taking a toll on the non-profit financially, as they continue to struggle with getting consistent payments to operate.

"People struggle with being able to afford tuition and Iowa DHS wise, we only get paid for the days when the children are here, pre-COVID, so that's a struggle, because they may not come whether it's a sickness or a family issue," KCCD Executive Director Stephanie Stanci said.

She adds that the community has stepped up and provided donations or PPE and cleaning supplies to ease the burden.

She believes there is a need for quality childcare in Keokuk. The center is one of three daycare locations in the city.

She says currently they have 19 enrolled for the upcoming school year and are expecting the infant and preschool children to return in the fall.

Here's some more of the numbers of the recent problems with child care in Iowa.

A recent childaware.org report found more than 930 licensed child care and in-home centers have closed during the pandemic and estimated Iowa could lose half its childcare slots because of COVID-19.

Between 2014 and 2019, the number of programs listed under the state’s Child Care Resource and Referral Center dropped 37 percent.

During that same period, the number of programs accepting kids on state child care assistance also decreased by 42 percent.

The Iowa senate advanced three bills last month to address these issue in the upcoming fall session.

For more information on enrollment contact the center at (319) 524-2378 or look at its Facebook page.

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Richard Denson

Richard Denson is the Morning Content Producer for WGEM News.

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