Local child care providers voice concerns | Local News

Future state aid discussed in Cabinet Secretary

Area child care providers told a state cabinet secretary Tuesday that government aid helped them stay open during the pandemic but now they worry about what might happen to their businesses if funding is not available in the future.

Elizabeth Groginsky, New Mexico Secretary of Early Childhood Education and Care, was in Roswell Tuesday as a statewide listening tour that began in March. She and some of her staff met with area child care providers and educators at a luncheon at Valley Cafe, 901 W. Brasher Road. It was Groginsky’s second visit to Roswell since being named secretary of the state’s newest cabinet-level department in 2020.

The Secretary of State spoke recently of the benefits the state has offered such as the expansion of free child care to families. In April, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that families with up to 400% of federal poverty level can qualify for waivers for copayments in child care services in the state’s Child Care Assistance Program, making child care costs free.

“We relieved that the burden of using our federal relief dollars to tell a family of four (making) up to $ 111,000 would be no cost to their child care,” she said.

The department has also used funds to boost revenue for child care providers after a study found they were charging clients what parents could afford rather than the cost of their service. Other funds have helped them increase salaries and educational opportunities for their staff, she said.

“In a year, we’re going to be able to see what a difference this made for New Mexican families and our child care industry. I’m very hopeful this is going to be a game-changer, “she said.

Lisa Reeves, director of the Mighty Movers Learning Center, 900 W. Brasher Road, said the center has seen an increase in applications since the announcement of the expanded free child care program.

“We had quite a few families that applied to the announcement and didn’t qualify, and we were able to send it to all of our families. It’s definitely greatly appreciated by our families and helping them out financially, “she said.

Susan Torres, director of Noah’s Ark Christian Preschool and Kindergarten, 501 N. Sycamore Ave., said the state’s financial aid helped keep the school open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are now up to pre-COVID numbers. We’re up to 151 in our program right now and we’re encouraging our families to apply for contracts, “she said.

Some families are hesitant to get state assistance, she said, but she asks them what free child care a year they will do for their family.

“They’re slowly coming around. We have some new contracts, “she said.

Juanita Segovia, owner and operator of Dexter at the Carousel Learning Center, also said the state aid had helped her business, but she was concerned about next year.

“I never thought it was going to grow,” she said of her business. “I have kids on the waiting list, it’s just that I don’t have that many staff.”

She has been able to offer better pay for her staff, but she’s worried that if future funding doesn’t come through, she might have to take the raises away.

“Then if I get more kids, then what am I going to do?” she said.

Retaining staff is also a concern as they take advantage of state aid to further their education, she said.

“I had some that went all the way and got their bachelor’s and left to the public schools because they got paid more. I don’t blame them. They’re doing the same thing as public teachers – lesson time, observation, dealing with parents, “she said.

Maria Arrieta, director of the My Kiddos Child Care Center, 1111 S. Union Avenue Ave., also said wages and finding teachers have been a struggle, especially when the state’s minimum wage rose to $ 11.50 per hour in December.

“A lot of people were already earning $ 10- $ 11, and now that gap is closing and they are expecting us to give them that difference all over again. We have to give to them slowly, but they expect it a lot sooner than that, “she said.

State aid helped give my kiddos bonuses to staff rather than raises, she said.

“With all the money that we’ve received, we’ve been able to give them bonuses and that’s the way we’ve kept them so far. I think with all the other funds they get for making and all that other stuff, it’s great, but at the same time they feel a little bit of that struggle, having to go to school, managing their family, all that stuff, “she said.

She said my kiddos have also lost staff to public schools as they further their education.

Groginsky said those are concerns she heard from other child care providers in the state.

“We’ve got to move forward and this is going to be a reality for New Mexico,” Groginsky said of the wage concerns.

She points to the Early Childhood Trust Fund established in 2020 as well as a constitutional amendment to the November ballot to allocate funds from the Land Grant Permanent Fund to early childhood education and public schools as secure funding mechanisms.

The trust fund was started with a $ 320 million appropriation from the state general fund and is supported by oil and gas revenues and federal mineral leasing.

“We are seeing estimates coming out of the Legislative Finance Committee that it expects to hit about $ 2 billion this coming year and could grow as much as $ 4 or $ 5 billion in the coming years. That fund will distribute 5% of the corpus to that fund or $ 30 million, whichever is greater, “she said.

In November, voters will decide whether or not to allocate funds from the Land Grant Permanent Fund, whose revenue comes from leases and royalties on oil and gas. If passed, 1.25% of the market value of the fund would go toward early childhood education and a 60-40 split on public education.

“I think we all have to believe the money is there,” Groginsky said.

“We’re all going to have some risks so that when we come out this end of the year, we’re going to have to show that those investments actually made a difference in what our employees made,” she said. General Chat Chat Lounge

“We have a long way to go to educate our legislators and our community about the business of child care and why it costs so much, because it is human-being intensive. It’s relationship-based work and you need to keep those good people in your programs and you need to pay them to keep them there, “Groginsky said.

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