Teacher Sue Cornelius teaches letters to the children at the You Be You Early Learning program which takes place on a fully renovated bus. The program is designed to specifically serve public housing communities. (PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado)

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When hundreds of Colorado child care providers recently filled out surveys about their financial well-being, the desperation was palpable.

One wrote, “This is so stressful.” Another said, “We are behind on rent.” A third delivered her message in all-caps: “NOT ENOUGH FUNDS TO KEEP DAY CARE ABOVE WATER.”

After nearly two years of pandemic-related problems, many child providers continue to face grave financial challenges, with some taking out loans or selling possessions to make ends meet. Others say they are on the brink of closing for good unless grants promised by the state arrive soon.

It could be a month or more until the first payments go out.

“People are so tired,” said Dawn Alexander, executive director of the Early Childhood Education Association of Colorado, which conducted the survey. “There comes a time when you just bend a knee and say, ‘I’m done.’”

The survey by Alexander’s organization, which represents private providers around the state, found that 38% of 340 respondents said they were at risk of closing permanently. While those respondents represent a small fraction of the state’s more than 3,700 licensed child care providers, their concerns mirror those revealed in other surveys over the last year.

In some cases, child care providers are struggling because they can’t find employees to cover their classrooms. Worker shortages have plagued many industries over the last year, but providers say it’s hard to compete with higher-paying fast food and retail jobs especially in a field as demanding as child care.

For some providers, it’s not staff they can’t find, it’s customers. They say some parents are still opting to stay home with their young children, both to save money on child care and because work-from-home schedules continue to allow it.

Read more at chalkbeat.org.

Senior reporter — Chalkbeat Colorado. Email: aschimke@chalkbeat.org Twitter: @annschimke