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Helping Home-Based Child Care Providers

September 18, 2020

In the midst of the pandemic, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation found a niche where it could be helpful.

The foundation, named for the late founder of the Buffalo Bills, decided to invest $1 million to support small, home-based child care providers in Western New York as they reopened or remained open to continue to provide high-quality care to children.

Ralph C. Wilson, Jr.

Rochester Area Community Foundation received $384,000 and worked closely with the Child Care Council, Inc., and Community Action of Orleans & Genesee, Inc., to distribute grants of up to $2,000 to nearly 200 home-based child care providers across Genesee, Monroe, and Orleans counties starting in July.

Those grants could not have come at a better time.

“The pandemic has more families looking at home-based options as a way to minimize their children’s exposure to large numbers of other children and adults,” says Jennifer Leonard, the Community Foundation’s president and CEO. “This sudden need by families during an already difficult time has placed a great deal of strain on home care providers who want to help.”

In addition to struggling to accommodate families, providers also worried about losing income, not finding enough cleaning and other supplies to meet new regulations, and being exposed to COVID-19.

“We were overlooked as essential workers,” says Marsha Coy, owner of Teddy Bear Day Care in Batavia, Genesee County, who took care of the children of nurses, nurses’ aides, and a health department worker.

Marsha Coy

Licensed for 16 children, the number fluctuated between 6 and 12 after non-essential businesses were shut down and parents got laid off. “It was a nightmare, and I am still struggling financially,” says Coy, who has operated the day care for 35 years.

She applied for and was granted a Paycheck Protection Program loan. She continued to pay all of her employees on her own and nearly had to dip into her retirement account to do that until the PPP money arrived three months later.

Coy received one of the $2,000 grants, calling it a “gift from heaven” and using it to pay off the balance of the day care’s utility bills.

Jennifer Hughes, owner of Jen’s Precious Gems Daycare in Medina, Orleans County, also lost a great deal of income when laid-off parents had to pull their children from her care. She took on a few temporary or part-time clients, but “there was so much uncertainty. I kept spots for my regulars and worked by myself for a while until families started to trickle back.”

Jennifer Hughes

A child care provider for 14 years, Hughes used her $2,000 grant to stock up on cleaning supplies that were difficult to get and buy sleeping mats, materials for individual art kits, and a cubby hole storage unit so that “nobody would be sharing anybody else’s things.”

“It’s important that we continue to fill these gaps and uplift these providers, as they are often the only option for working families in rural areas and urban neighborhoods,” says Amber Slichta, vice president of programs at the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation

It wasn’t until mid-September that money was made available through federal CARES Act funding to assist child care providers as they adjusted their programs during the pandemic. Other funding had been made available in the spring and summer to assist with reopening and help meet social distancing requirements, but was not widely known.

In addition to the Community Foundation, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation distributed grants to the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, Chautauqua Community Foundation, and Cattaraugus Community Foundation.

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