With Pandemic Money Gone, Child Care Is an Industry on the Brink

Five months after the expiration of federal funds, running a child care business is more precarious than ever, and many parents struggle to pay tuition, surveys show.

The New York Times | Published Feb. 25, 2024
By Claire Cain Miller


Before the pandemic, Shineal Hunter, like her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother before her, worked in child care, running a center for 55 children in Philadelphia. It focused on caring for children with behavioral challenges and helping families find services like housing or food assistance.

After the pandemic, though, the business became unsustainable, with rising costs, inconsistent attendance and a staffing shortage.

With the expiration of the federal funding looming, Ms. Hunter closed her center.

“It’s heartbreaking, that all the energy and effort that I’ve had for the last 15 years, the services provided in my community, those are gone,” she said. “I’m thinking of the children who are now going to fall between the cracks.”

She watches one child at her home, before and after school, and is working part-time as a therapist. But she would like to return to child care again, and is making plans to reopen.