Childcare capacity lags as Alaskans return to work

Anchorage For many families, finding affordable, quality childcare was a difficult task before the coronavirus pandemic, but as more businesses reopen and more Alaskans have the opportunity to return to work, finding appropriate childcare is tougher than ever.

As of Monday, 101 of the 247 licensed childcare facilities in the Municipality of Anchorage were closed, meaning more than 5,400 spaces for children regularly authorized are unavailable.

Although there are almost 150 open childcare facilities and some are enrolling new children, Stephanie Berglund with Thread Alaska says the regular concerns of access, affordability, and quality of care are amplified, and both families and providers face challenges.

"They're doing things like adding additional staff. They're having to accommodate smaller group sizes. They're ensuring daily health checks. They're having many more protocols in place relating to sanitizing and cleaning and ensuring toys and equipment are cared for in a whole new way," Berglund said. "So we know they're operating at a loss right now."

Thread is Alaska's childcare resource and referral network, which provides both resources for early childhood educators and programs, as well as free referrals for families. Berglund says the organization is helping families learn what quality care looks like, especially with the circumstances presented by COVID-19.

"Families, especially families who are in need of care and maybe working in a critical position, maybe at a grocery store or in our healthcare industry, many of them are working even outside of a 9-to-5 business day where they need alternative hour supports as well. So that is really difficult for families to find right now," Berglund said.

For those looking for childcare, the Municipality of Anchorage has a dedicated page on website with an interactive map showing which childcare facilities are closed, open, or both open and enrolling new students.

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