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Laylah Lee, left, hugs Tessa Keeran at Through the Years Child Care.

Parents keep their kids out of day care while they work from home.

A child care provider, who doesn’t have sick time, gets sick and can’t work.

Those who work with early childhood programs and study them said the industry could be hit hard by the response to the novel coronavirus.

Hoping to better understand what those effects might be, the Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska is asking providers to fill out a survey.

“What would happen if they closed their program? Would they be able to open again?” asked Kate Gallagher, director of research and evaluation for the Buffett Institute.

Those are just some of the questions Gallagher and her colleagues are hoping they’ll get an answer to from the survey. They are asking those who have or are facing financial, health impacts or other effects from the spread of the coronavirus to complete the survey.

The responses to the survey are anonymous and due by Wednesday, but responses will still be accepted after that date.

The survey received 1,700 responses in three days. Gallagher said they’ve been sobered by the intensity of the response.

“They are worried about their economic well-being and physical well-being,” Gallagher said.

Quality, affordable early childhood education was already in short supply in Nebraska, according to a report released this year by the institute. Child care workers and teachers often earn poverty-level wages and have no benefits and no sick time.

Three out of every four Nebraska children under age 6 have parents working outside the home. Parents often lack choices in affordable care, especially in rural areas.

Gallagher said child care workers are undercompensated and undervalued, and yet they are now considered essential employees.

Janet Herzog, executive director of Midwest Child Care Association, said people are assuming child care providers will be there when things return to normal, and that might not be the case.

Midwest Child Care Association monitors a federal food program in hundreds of child care facilities throughout the state.

About a third of the 70 day care centers Midwest Child Care Association works with have closed due to coronavirus concerns. Some have reopening dates, and others don’t know, Herzog said.

Home day cares have smaller groups of children, but some are down to two or three kids and are really starting to feel it, Herzog said.

Other parents are working from home and keeping their children home with them. Other parents have lost their jobs and no longer need child care.

Herzog is telling providers to keep charging parents who are working from home if the parents are salaried to keep the operations going.

“It’s so important right now that people understand how important child care is and the impact it could have on our economy,” Herzog said.

“If they close, that’s less child care for the people who have to go to work.”