‘It’s alarming’: Local Daycares Struggling As Federal Grant Funding Set To Expire

CHARLOTTE, N.C. —  Local daycares like Pathway Preschool Center have been hit hard by the pandemic. 

“We lost 100 children during the pandemic,” Director of Pathway Preschool Emma Biggs said. 

 Three years later they’re still struggling to rebound. 

“Something’s going to have to change and it would have to be drastic,” Biggs said. 

 Emma Biggs, director of Pathway Preschool said during the pandemic, stabilization grants  from the American Rescue Act helped keep their doors open by offsetting costs and boosting salaries for teachers. 

She said daycare workers were making only $12 dollars an hour before the funding that boosted their salaries three to five dollars. 

 However, with that funding set to expire at the end of the year she’s now worried about how she will retain staff. 

“Even some gas stations are paying more per hour than what they make here even with the stabilization grants,” Biggs said. “So it will be a mass exodus of employees at that time. We do know that.” 

 She said she’s already had to raise prices, cut some staff and reduce hours. Without the grant funding it will be even harder to keep the center open. 

” It’s really alarming to see what’s going to happen. So there’s a bit of anxiety.” 

Daycare owners like Biggs are now calling on state lawmakers to continue the grant funding. 

They want the state legislature to double the investment in child care teachers pay and provide more funding for daycares. 

“They need to make a bold investment into early childhood education,” Biggs said. 

Biggs said more funding  is crucial to the survival of the industry. 

“Really take a hard look at the budget and make do. Even if they have to use their rainy day funds. It’s a rainy day, that’s how we feel. We need investments in early childhood now,” Biggs said. 

State lawmakers are pushing for several bills that could impact the state’s early childhood education industry. 

 Those bills include increasing state funding for child care and extending federal child care compensation grants.