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Local News

Partial reopening of child care facilities a relief for Joliet center

After weeks of uncertainty, one Joliet day care center is getting some relief after having to shut down two months ago because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sandifer Thomas, who runs the Direct Thy Path day care center, had a tough time even applying for a loan to keep her business afloat after the federal Paycheck Protection Program had a rocky rollout.

She eventually was able to get her loan, which she said would help her pay her staff for a couple of months. Then, earlier this month, she was able to reopen her day care center under an emergency license.

Basically, this meant her facility has been able to operate at 50% capacity to care for the children of essential workers. While this meant her center could make some money, Thomas was still hoping for more good news as Illinois transitions to the next phase of Gov. JB Pritzker’s plan to reopen the state’s economy.

“There are some funds coming in to keep me above water,” she said. “It’s not enough.”

Then last Friday, Pritzker announced he would expand the ability of child care centers to reopen to 70% capacity in Phase 3 of his plan.

“We can’t have a conversation about going back to work without talking about child care – anything else leaves a large portion of the workforce – especially women, who too often bear a disproportionate burden – without any way to move forward while caring for their kids,” Pritzker said in a news release.

Under the change, child care providers who had been operating as emergency centers, like Direct Thy Path, could immediately move to the higher maximum capacity starting Friday.

Child care centers also are expected to follow new social distancing and sanitation guidelines as they reopen. Thomas said she’s already implemented measures such as increased cleaning, having her staff wear face coverings, taking their temperatures daily and having parents drop off their children at the door.

As other sectors of the economy begin reopening, many parents will need to send their kids to day care again.

Thomas said she’s already heard from parents who told her they would need to drop off their children because they were going back to work in early June. She said she should be able to reach 70% capacity, which would help her bottom line as her PPP loan money runs dry.

While Thomas said the additional precautions require more work for her staff, she also echoed the governor’s sentiment about the necessity of child care providers as the state reopens.

“They will need the service,” she said.

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