'A deficit': 500 child care centers shut down in San Mateo County amid COVID-19 pandemic

SAN MATEO COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- Nearly two-thirds of childcare operations in San Mateo County have temporarily closed or permanently shut down since March.

It's the backbone of our economy: child care. Many parents unable to work from home, can't physically go back to work without it.

Karen Haas Foletta is the Executive Director of Footsteps Child Care, a nonprofit providing childcare in nine locations across the Peninsula.

"We have a deficit and we're going to lose at least $500,000 for this year if things continue," said Foletta. "That was money that we've been saving for a long time."

Foletta built Footsteps from the ground up 26 years ago. Now, she's fighting to keep it open.

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"It has been so so hard and stressful for me I never thought I would have to lay off staff," said Foletta said.

In early March, the centers cared for nearly 800 children per day. Now, that figure is around 200.

Staffer Adrian Padilla is bracing for the worst: the second wave of the virus.

"Is it going to come back? What's going to happen? I'm concerned about my job safety," he said. "It's always playing in the back of my mind."

An uncomfortable reality - as hundreds of child care centers have already shut their doors.

To put it in perspective, before the pandemic there were roughly 900 child care operations in San Mateo County. There are around 300 open now.

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David Fleishman is the Executive Director of the Child Care Coordinating Council of San Mateo County, also known as 4C's.

Fleishman told ABC7 it's unclear how many centers are permanently closed. But, he confirmed there isn't enough subsidized funding to even support half of the need across the county.

"4C's has $13 million budgeted this year in subsidies for child care. These vouchers go to low-income families to support unemployment," he said. "That is not nearly enough to cover the need here in this county."

There are more than 500 child care centers stuck in limbo across San Mateo County.

"I believe that many family child care homes and child care centers are not going to survive this," said Foletta. "Then, what are we going to do? Parents need to work and they need quality childcare... It's really a problem."

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