ANCHORAGE (AP) — The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a shortage of available childcare for families in Anchorage, officials said.
The Anchorage Health Department said that only 141 of 247 childcare facilities, or 57%, are open in the municipality, Alaska Public Media reported.
"We have lost upwards of 5,500 possible spaces for children to be in childcare," said Nicole Lebo, the department's Human Services Division manager. "That is going to be a hardship for parents and on our economy."
City and local organizations are working together to provide resources for childcare facilities so they can reopen in the coming months, Lebo said.
"We are going to experience a lack of care this summer," Lebo said. "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."
Facilities that choose to operate must have coronavirus mitigation plans, Lebo said.
Most of the facilities that are able to reopen have space and can enroll new children, Lebo said.
A list of operating facilities is available on the municipality's website or by contacting thread Alaska, a state childcare resource and referral organization, which has offered financial support to licensed providers.
Democratic Mayor Ethan Berkowitz emphasized the importance of childcare services for the economy.
"It's critical for the child's development," Berkowitz said. "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."