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COVID-19: New Orleans Education Advocates Join Forces to Launch Child Care Provider Assistance Program: United for Early Care and Education

By Loyola University on Thu, 04/30/2020 - 11:25

United Way, Loyola College of Law, Agenda for Children to provide technical, legal assistance to providers seeking COVID-19 relief funding

(NEW ORLEANS – April 30, 2020) Loyola University New Orleans College of Law joined United Way of Southeast Louisiana (UWSELA) on Thursday to launch an early care and education (ECE) provider assistance program, United for Early Care and Education, to help child care providers navigate new public funding and supports rolled out in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

United for ECE – in partnership with Loyola University New Orleans College of Law and Agenda for Children – provides technical and legal support to child care centers, beginning with a focus on the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) to help them access the loans, maintain proper eligibility for forgiveness and complete the loan forgiveness process. 

The partners plan to explore opportunities to extend additional support to providers throughout year one as the long-term challenges facing ECE providers, their staff, and their students become clear.

“United Way and our partners recognize the urgent need to stabilize access to early care and education, and COVID-19’s lasting effects are threatening the very existence of our region’s ECE network,” said Michael Williamson, UWSELA president and CEO. “We also know that while SBA loans are in short supply, the providers who receive funds will likely need a great deal of support to maintain eligibility for reimbursement as we’ve witnessed with past federal aid opportunities.”

Quality, affordable child care centers – cornerstones of a strong economy – are at risk of shuttering as they comply with necessary safety orders and face the economic challenges of low enrollment. 

Under normal circumstances, centers operate with minimal profit margins and most fight to maintain the perfect balance of affordability and full enrollment. It is not uncommon for directors to go months without pay as they manage the difficulties of low cash flow, making regular staff payrolls challenging.

To further complicate the matter, the majority of centers are small businesses independently owned and operated by women and people of color and staffed by ALICE® (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) employees. Large-scale closures would continue to grow COVID-19’s disproportionate economic effects on these communities.  

A recent survey, conducted in partnership with Agenda for Children, the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children, and UWSELA, found that one-third of child care providers in greater New Orleans reported that an extended closure will force them to permanently close. In the same survey, more than 90% of respondents said grants to pay employees during closure are critical to their ability to remain viable.

“It has never been clearer that early childhood providers are the invisible backbone of our economy. Our early childhood centers have steadfastly served our communities in and out of crisis, including during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Anna Williamson, Agenda for Children managing director for Early Childhood Programs and the Center for Professional Development. “At this time, the majority of the region’s child care centers have closed temporarily, and the open centers’ educators have put their lives and their livelihoods on the line to serve our healthcare workers and other essential personnel. We are proud to be part of a collaboration that will provide necessary financial and legal support to these critical businesses.”

As the COVID-19 crisis continues in Southeast Louisiana, the need to help child care providers access funding and supports will increase as they struggle to stay in operation or reopen once more restrictive safety measures are lifted and families return to work. The College of Law will provide ongoing legal assistance to protect and support centers throughout the program’s first year as the community transitions to long-term recovery.

Loyola College of Law Dean and Judge Adrian G. Duplantier Professor of Law Madeleine Landrieu explained, “Loyola’s College of Law has one of the strongest law clinics in the country. So when Michael Williamson and Charmaine Caccioppi shared their vision [for this project], we were ready to help. This partnership will allow us to do what we do best: provide critical legal aid to our low-income neighbors while teaching our law students to use their law degrees in service to others.”

To participate in the program, UWSELA and Agenda for Children will invite providers that have a quality rating score of Approaching Proficient or better; receive public funds to serve low-income children; are based in UWSELA’s seven-parish region (Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Washington parishes); and are seeking assisting in accessing and managing PPP loans and other COVID-19 emergency relief funding.

The College of Law will also provide support accessing the region’s leading banking and financial institutions to expedite the PPP application process.  

The program welcomed 20 providers into a pilot test last month that have requested more than $600,000 in relief funding in PPP loans, to date.

Please contact UnitedForECE@UnitedWaySELA.org more information on United for Early Care and Education.