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Andy Lesser Gonzalez

March 20, 2020 was the last day that my childcare business, Panda’s Playcare was open as we know it. The governor made the wise decision that group childcare should be closed for the foreseeable future. So what now? Thoughts were swirling around my head, like how can I afford to pay my staff? How would these children be cared for if their parents still needed to work? And of course, how will my family survive the significant loss of income?

I filled out applications for every grant and loan that existed, and researched  all the regulations and restrictions on becoming an Exempt Emergency Childcare for Children of Essential Workers (EECCP). At the same time, I also set up 2 daily ZOOM meetings; a “Morning meeting/days of the week” time and a “Story Time” for all of my existing families so that the children could at least have the consistency of these routines and see each other.

Within a couple of days of completing the paperwork, we received the notice that I was approved to operate an EECCP. This meant that we could count on a small stipend from the state that although does not cover the full loss of income,  would be something consistent that we could rely upon.

So how has everything changed around here? Gone are the days of having staff here to help and any flexibility and control in scheduling.   Now, Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m. I am with children who I am just getting to know. I work downstairs, while my family co-exist in the upstairs of the house separate from me, where my wife also works full time and helps care for our three kids. Even after the children in my care leave at 5:00, I still have to disinfect the environment, shower, and change before I come upstairs for dinner and to see the family. Usually, I get upstairs by around 6:00, giving Meredith the much needed break she so deserves after spending the day not only helping our own kids with any of their online school issues, but also teaching a 5th grade class remotely herself.

It is definitely hard work for our whole family to have me so separate all day every day of the week. At the same time, I am so blessed with a family that knows that we are all making this small sacrifice because it makes a difference. Young children have a place to go where they are safe, nurtured and even learning new things during this time when so much else is unstable. As more businesses open, those of us who are EECCPs are being asked to open our doors a little wider and provide services to even those who are not essential workers per say, but who have no other options for care of their children as they head back to work. So there will be more children coming here who don’t know me or my environment or why they can’t still go to the place they used to go to, who will be relying on me to provide the emotional stability that they so crave and require.

Each day, I am thankful that I can do this work because of my strong spiritual foundation and a loving wife and children.

Are you an essential worker? Contact Tali Puterman to share your story!