Child care questions remain as businesses gear up to reopen Friday

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Central Texas favorites like Broken Spoke are gearing up to reopen Friday, following Governor Greg Abbott’s phased plan to reopen the state — but as more people get ready to go back to work, there aren’t clear answers yet about who will help watch their children.

“That’s the million-dollar question,” said Brenda Schultz, Regional Manager for the Learning Experience for Austin and Dallas. “We started having families ask. At this point, nothing has changed.”

She said the state rules currently mandate that child care centers only serve children of essential workers. Individual city and counties may have different requirements about group sizes.

Schultz said during the Stay-At-Home Order, enrollment has declined sharply.

“Because we can only have essential workers, all of our schools have, you know, a lot of openings. What used to have 100 children now may have 15 children,” she said.

“It’s unprecedented,” Schultz added. “I can’t think of any business owner right now that’s not feeling the stress.”

The state Health and Human Service Commission told KXAN that based on the new executive order signed by Governor Greg Abbott on April 27, “public health needs indicate that child care operations may remain open only to serve children whose parent is considered an essential employee under the Governor’s executive order.”

When asked if they expect that to change soon, the state officials said no.

KXAN reached out to the Governor’s office to ask if there are plans to relax those rules in coming days — so employees of reopened non-essential businesses can send their children to daycare. KXAN hasn’t heard back yet.

Schultz said, “We’re keeping our ears open because everyone’s anxious to begin trying to get more to normal.”

Stuart Dupuy, owner of College Sitters, a company that provides in-home sitters, said, he started getting more calls this week from parents asking about in-home services.

“We saw a big spike in business as schools were closed and workers were still going to work [in March], he said. “Then we started seeing everything close, except for essential workers, and we shifted to where the majority of our sitters are going to the homes of essential workers.”

As the number of people looking for help now rises, Dupuy said, “The common theme that we are seeing from our families is that they want the same person who is going to come out to their house for the next six to eight weeks.”

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