As Alaska’s economy begins to reopen, Anchorage officials say the city is facing a childcare shortage

Woodson Collins, 8, and Gus Collins, 4, video chat with friends in Anchorage with schools closed because of the coronavirus. (Photo courtesy Jen Collins)

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in business closures, remote schooling and many people working from home. And, in Anchorage, it has led to a shortage of available childcare. 

“We have lost upwards of 5,500 possible spaces for children to be in childcare,” said Nicole Lebo, manager of the Human Services Division at the Anchorage Health Department. “That is going to be a hardship for parents and on our economy.”

Read the most recent coverage of the coronavirus, and Alaska’s economy

Speaking at a press briefing Friday, Lebo said of the 247 childcare facilities in the municipality, only 141 are open right now. That’s about 57%.

The city and local organizations are working to provide resources for childcare facilities that are able to open this summer.  

“We are going to experience a lack of care this summer,” said Lebo. “We can’t mandate people to open, so we’re just trying to do everything possible for people who want to open to give people the help that they need to do so.”

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Of those facilities that are open, Lebo said, most have space and are able to enroll new children. Information on where those openings are can be found on the municipality’s website, or by getting in touch with thread Alaska. The organization is also offering financial support to licensed childcare facilities. The deadline to apply is May 31. 

Mayor Ethan Berkowitz emphasized the importance of childcare services for the entire economy. 

“It’s critical for the child’s development,” said Berkowitz. “It’s critical for the ability of a parent or a guardian to go to work on a regular schedule. And it’s part of the rhythm we’ve developed in this country.”

Lebo said she expects to see more providers open up again, now that the state has moved into the second phase of reopening. 

Those who do choose to open must have a COVID-19 mitigation plan to ensure the safety of families and employees.