JOHNSTOWN, Pa (WTAJ)–Acting PA Department of Human Service Secretary Meg Snead visited the Learning Lamp in Johnstown Tuesday to have an open meeting with child care providers.

The meeting allowed providers to voice their concerns about ongoing issues the industry and their centers have had since the pandemic.

The primary concern brought up was the ongoing staffing shortage. The shortage doesn’t allow centers to serve more children than they are capable of. President and CEO of the Learning Lamp, Leah Spangler, said that the Secretary was open-minded during the whole discussion.

“She was very interested in hearing from us and hearing what our challenges are,” Spangler said. “In particular, staffing is one of the biggest challenges childcare programs face. Also, she talked to us about potential policy changes that would be easier to serve children, which would be fantastic.”

The Commonwealth plans to provide $655 million towards child care in their latest round of funding. Secretary Snead said that this could be used to maintain the centers and increase pay for staffing. That would not only help aid the economic recovery within the state but potentially increase interest in the industry.

“It’s really important that we recognize that this caring infrastructure workforce is really the fabric of our safety net,” Secretary Snead said. “We must invest in it to make sure it is adequate, conserve everybody that deserves access to high-quality, affordable childcare.”

Another concern the providers mentioned was COVID-19 and the multiple quarantines within recent time. The Learning Lamp across all their locations has two preschools, three childcare centers, and one before and after program under quarantine.

Secretary Snead also noted that the increase in staff would provide more accessibility to parents. By that, it could allow more parents to enter the workforce. Spangler said that now parents and government officials recognize the crucial need for childcare.

“People who own businesses realizing the importance of child care for their workers or the government realizing the necessity for childcare,” Spangler said. “That maybe we’ll be able to make some progress so that we’ll build back childcare in a way that pays people fairly and attracts people to the field.”

Secretary Snead said she plans to take the comments mentioned back to Harrisburg. In particular, she’ll look into breaking the barriers of regulations that child care centers go through in multiple departments.

“The more people we can get into the workforce, the faster, the better,” Secretary Snead said.

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