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Betty Jane Reitz

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Betty Jane Reitz, 66, of Clarendon, Pa., passed away on Nov. 27. 2021, at UPMC Hamot, Erie, Pa.

Stephen John Rieder

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Stephen John Rieder, 81, of Warren, Pa., went to be with his Lord and Savior on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, following a recent illness.

SUNY JCC Announces COVID-19 Protocols for Spring Semester

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JAMESTOWN, NY – SUNY Jamestown Community College, in accordance with a mandate from the State University of New York, will continue to require incoming and returning students taking on-campus classes to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Library Hosting Crystal Claus’ Corner Contest

WARREN, Pa. – Well, another year has gone by and Mrs. Claus is still not able to make her yearly visit to the Warren Public Library.

Warren Tire Center Winter Weather Advisory Issued for Warren, McKean Counties Sunday

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – The National Weather Service in State College has issued a Winter Weather Advisory for Warren and McKean Counties beginning at 1 p.m. Sunday.

UPDATE: Speed Limit Restored; PennDOT Temporarily Reduces Speed Limit on I-80 in Mercer, Venango Counties

OIL CITY, Pa. – Due winter weather conditions, PennDOT has temporarily reduced the speed limit on Interstate 80 in Mercer and Venango counties.

Pennsylvania’s Child Care and Staffing Crisis, by the Numbers

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by Ed Mahon of Spotlight PA

HARRISBURG — As a roughly $2 trillion social spending plan moves through Congress, transformational change could be on the horizon for child care in Pennsylvania and across the country. But now, an industry pivotal to the state’s economic recovery is facing severe staffing shortages.

Providers are struggling to attract and retain workers because of low wages, Spotlight PA recently reported, and the situation has ripple effects for the state’s economy, as parents shuffle their work schedules to deal with shorter hours and face tough decisions about how to care for their children without losing a paycheck.

Here are the figures that stand out, and what they show:

Closures

  • About 6,800 licensed child care providers were operating in Pennsylvania as of late November.
  • 1,000-plus licensed child care providers closed from March 2020 through October 2021, according to data from Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services.
  • 796 licensed child care providers opened during the same time period.

What it means: Advocates for child care providers say many more providers would have closed if not for hundreds of millions of dollars in federal relief. Still, the recovery is uneven. Some parts of the state lost more providers than others, and some types of programs — small ones, based in private homes — saw a larger net loss than larger child care centers.

Staffing shortages

  • 6.1 million people were employed in nonfarm jobs in Pennsylvania in October 2019, according to jobs data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • 5.8 million people were employed in nonfarm jobs in Pennsylvania in October 2021, according to preliminary jobs data.
  • That’s a 5% decrease over two years.
  • 48,100 people were employed in Pennsylvania child care jobs in October 2019, before the pandemic.
  • 44,000 people were employed in child care jobs in October 2021, according to preliminary jobs data.
  • That’s an 8.5% decrease over two years.

What it means: Child care providers say they can’t hire enough employees to meet the current demand, and they’ve had to close classrooms, reduce hours, and serve fewer children.

A survey released in September of more than 1,100 child care providers in Pennsylvania found there were nearly 26,000 children on waiting lists. More than 34,000 additional children could be served if providers were fully staffed.

A classroom not in use at The Willow School, which is serving about half as many kids as it used to because of a staffing shortage. THOMAS HENGGE / Philadelphia Inquirer

High costs, low wages

What it means: Child care providers operate on thin margins, which makes it difficult for them to raise wages and ease staffing shortages. At the same time, costs for parents are high. And even though low-income families are eligible for government subsidies, that assistance doesn’t cover the cost of care, child care advocates say. That perpetuates a broken business model.

Federal help

  • Roughly $525 million in federal relief was earmarked for the Pennsylvania child care industry under legislation that passed in 2020.
  • The American Rescue Plan Act, which passed in March under President Joe Biden, sets aside $1.2 billion more.
  • Biden’s Build Back Better proposal, recently approved by the U.S. House, comes with a roughly $2 trillion price tag that, among other commitments, promises to lower child care costs for families and raise wages for workers.

What it means: Previous federal assistance helped programs stay in business as they dealt with shutdown orders, drops in enrollment, and new cleaning and safety requirements. Child care advocates expect providers will use some of the latest relief money to offer higher pay or better benefits for workers. But recruiting challenges could remain, and providers fear the money is only a temporary fix.

Spotlight PA is an independent, nonpartisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and WITF Public Media. Sign up for our free newsletters.

WHILE YOU’RE HERE… If you learned something from this story, pay it forward and become a member of Spotlight PA so someone else can in the future at spotlightpa.org/donate. Spotlight PA is funded by foundations and readers like you who are committed to accountability journalism that gets results.

Commissioners Propose Budget With no Tax Increase; Library Grants Awarded

WARREN, Pa. – The preliminary 2022 budget for Warren County will be released on Dec. 1, and doesn’t involve any tax increases per the Warren County Commissioners.

Barbara C. Tubbs

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Barbara C. Tubbs, 78, of Starbrick, PA, died Tuesday afternoon November 23, 2021, at the John and Orpha Blair Hospice Home, after a courageous battle with cancer, and with her family by her side.

SUNY JCC Music Department Hosting Two Winter Concerts

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JAMESTOWN, N.Y. – The SUNY Jamestown Community College music department is presenting two winter concerts in December that are open to the public.