With two young children and a busy work schedule, Rebecca Kingsbury had no idea how she and her husband would have been able to navigate the demands on their time had their preschool been among the hundreds forced to shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fortunately for Kingsbury and dozens of other families, the Nierman Preschool at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Centers of San Diego County was able to stay open thanks in large part to a $25,000 emergency grant from the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund.

“We were beyond relieved when JCC preschool resumed quickly and safely last May,” said Kingsbury. “We had no reservations sending the girls back to school with all of the precautions being taken. It has allowed my husband and I to maintain (somewhat) regular work schedules, and provided much-needed consistency in the girls’ lives,” she shared. “I honestly cannot imagine how we would have gotten through this past year without the girls being able to attend school.”

At least 535 child care centers in the county remained closed during the pandemic as of December, according to the YMCA Childcare Resource Service. That was an improvement from the June 19 peak when 54% percent of child care centers and 4% of home-based sites were shut down for reasons ranging from health concerns to the added precautions and rising costs of staying open. A recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation study, meanwhile, found that enrollment nationwide is down by nearly two-thirds.

The impact on the economy has been profound. “Without viable childcare solutions, working parents will have a difficult time returning to work, especially as unemployment is concentrated in industries that provide in-person services,” the study states, which notes that child care challenges have resulted in losses ranging from $479 million to $3.47 billion in four states that were studied.

All of which makes the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund a critical resource for families trying to juggle work, day care and at-home schooling. Centers that have been able to remain open are nonetheless being squeezed financially due to mandated-reduced class sizes and the need for personal protective equipment.

Economic Impacts

“The financial impacts have been huge,” said Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center CEO Betzy Lynch, who noted the $25,000 grant from the COVID-19 Community Response Fund helped pay for personal protective equipment for staff, cleaning and sanitizing supplies, along with training for Nierman Preschool teachers and administrators. “This grant has been immensely helpful in alleviating the pressure.”

The San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund has raised $66 million to date and provided grants totaling approximately $58 million. Numerous nonprofit professionals say their organizations would no longer be able to provide critical services to our community’s most vulnerable if not for the emergency grants. Some 79% of people served through the fund live in poverty, and 56% of grantees were able to secure additional dollars as a result of their Community Response Fund grant.

Forging Ahead

Shutting down the Nierman Preschool really wasn’t an option. All students are children of essential workers, including firefighters, teachers, doctors and nurses.

“Our parents didn’t have a choice to stay at home and be with their kids,” said Lynch. “They had to be at work doing what they could to protect us.”

Despite the support, challenges remain. Pre-pandemic, the preschool had an enrollment of 240 students. Post-pandemic, the number of children fell to 50, though that number has since rebounded to approximately 150.

“We are incredibly grateful for the generosity of the San Diego community, without which our ability to serve our essential workers would have been impossible,” Lynch said. “This gift has allowed us to step up during a critical moment of need.” You can help by donating to the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund today.