The child care employees also advocated being a higher priority in getting the COVID-19 vaccine.By Chris Hoffman

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — For about an hour Tuesday morning, several early child care facilities made their pitch to a bipartisan group of state senators for change.

When the pandemic started almost a year ago, child care subsidies were modified for reimbursement based on enrollment and not attendance. In September, it changed back to the attendance base.

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“But with providers seeing decreases as much as 50 percent, those payments are not enough to sustain them through this crisis,” said Shalonda Spencer, who is with Trying Together.

Some facilities have lost more than $1 million because of lower attendance, and the pandemic hasn’t made operations any easier. Also complicating matters was the state canceling a grant that helped to retain employees.

“This year of all years, to get rid of a program that’s been in place for 17 years, and you take it away during a pandemic,” Tracy O’Connell with the Catholic Youth Association said, “it seems heartless.”

The $600 grant that was being given out to child care employees has dried up with many now on a waitlist.

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“They qualify for food assistance, child care assistance and even health care,” said Tammy Charles with In God We Trust Our Little Ones Daycare.

State senators from both sides of the aisle said they are working not only to address the pandemic issues but structurally fix the system for child care workers.

“This is not babysitting. This is not it. You have some of the most qualified educators,” Republican Senator Camera Bartolotta said.

“You risked your lives to benefit the economy and we as legislators need to recognize that and do something about it,” Democratic Senator Lindsey Williams said.

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The child care employees also advocated being a higher priority in getting the COVID-19 vaccine.