Coronavirus Causes Child Care Shortage In Prince George’s County

PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, MD — Prince George’s County is still climbing out of the economic

PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, MD — Prince George’s County is still climbing out of the economic hole caused by the coronavirus pandemic. While widespread unemployment garners the most attention, the fiscal downturn also spurred a shortage in child-care providers.

About 40 percent of Prince George’s day cares have not reopened since coronavirus shutdowns began in March. That puts increased stress on parents who are starting to head back to work.

County Executive Angela Alsobrooks is working to alleviate that stress. She recently dedicated $2 million in CARES Act money to keep these businesses open.

The CARES Act, otherwise known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, is federal legislation passed in March that allocated money to stimulate the aching economy. Some of that money took the form of small business loans. Other capital went to state and county governments.

Alsobrooks is sending $1.4 million to child-care centers and the remaining $600,000 to day cares in homes. Eligible nurseries will receive grants of $20,ooo. At-home facilities could score up to $3,000. The money will help the businesses pay rent, compensate employees, cover their bills and buy personal protective equipment.

The county executive announced her initiative on Sept. 3, when she informed residents that Prince George’s County is not yet ready to move into the third and final stage of coronavirus recovery. Interested child-care operators must apply for the grants, and they have until Oct. 2 to do so.

Business owners can apply at this link. Alsobrooks will announce the awardees on Oct. 9.

“This has been very difficult for families who have been trying to find safe child care for their students,” Alsobrooks said. “This will be a priority for us to assist our families and parents.”

Economy Check-In

The county has also helped the business community with its Economic Development Incentive Fund. The effort disbursed $20,190,000 to local companies. Day cares collected $725,000 out of that pot.

The county has awarded money to 60 of the 670 applicants. More than half of the recipients have already received their grant.

Nearly 80 percent of the awardees are minority-owned. Women own 43 percent of the approved businesses, and veterans lead 5 percent of the operations.

The county is still recovering from swaths of coronavirus-related layoffs. The latest figures show that 50,098 people, or 9.5 percent of Prince George’s County workers, were without a job in July. That’s down 1.4 percent from the county’s pandemic-high, which it registered in May.

The number of new unemployment claims are updated each week, offering a more timely overview of county economies. The freshest report comes from the week ending on Sept. 5.

That week, Prince George’s County tallied 1,754 first-time unemployment insurance claims. The county’s worst stint came during the week of May 2, when it saw 15,488 new claims. In comparison, Prince George’s counted 259 first-time claims in the week of March 5, which was when Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency in response to the state’s coronavirus outbreak.

“This has been devastating for so many of our businesses who have made sacrifices and seen losses,” Alsobrooks said, mentioning the 154,000 county residents who have lost their jobs during the pandemic. “We know that they are hurting.”

Coronavirus Statistics Update

Prince George’s County continues to have the most coronavirus cases in the state, and its metrics are higher than many Maryland averages.

The county registered a pandemic low seven-day positivity rate of 4.37 on Aug. 30, but this metric is on the rise. The most recent data clock Prince George’s positivity rate at 5.26 percent, which is 1.5 percent higher than the statewide clip.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says municipalities should aim to keep their positivity rate below 5 percent. When counties hit this mark, Maryland health leaders say it is likely safe to return to schools for hybrid instruction.

Prince George’s County school officials still plan to keep classes online until at least January of 2021. Prince George’s County Public Schools will re-evaluate the local coronavirus situation throughout the fall with hopes of offering a hybrid option for the second semester, which starts Jan. 28.

The county fell under the 5-percent positivity benchmark for the first time on Aug. 20. Friday was the first time that Prince George’s slipped back above the benchmark. The local positivity rate topped out at 41.98 percent on May 2.

Prince George’s County also does not meet the state’s new infections-per-capita marker. State health officials say jurisdictions should aim for less than five new coronavirus cases-per-day per 100,000 people. When an area hits this case rate goal, the state says it is probably safe to reopen the district’s schools for expanded in-person learning.

Between Aug. 30 and Sept. 5, which is the last full week on record, Prince George’s County had a case rate of 12.25. That’s up by 0.46 from the week prior and more than double the state’s goal.

The county must average less than 45.47 new coronavirus cases-per-day over a rolling week to meet the state’s per-capita suggestion. Prince George’s County has averaged 111.43 infections-per-day during the last seven reported days.

The county has the most coronavirus infections in the state, with 27,439. The virus has killed 784 county residents.

Prince George’s coronavirus-related hospitalizations have plateaued as of late. The virus had 49 Prince George’s County residents in the hospital during the last recorded week. Hospitalizations hit a recent low of 45 in the week of July 5. Since then, they have fluctuated between 49 and 60.

Fewer than 69 coronavirus patients have been in the hospital at a time since the week of June 21. More than 240 people were hospitalized in Prince George’s County on the pandemic’s peak during the week of May 3.

“It is critically important that we not become complacent with COVID-19,” Alsobrooks said. “We are going to make it through this together.”

All statistics were taken at 10 p.m. on Friday Sept. 11.

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This article originally appeared on the Bowie Patch

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