CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Citing financial problems, three Kanawha County daycare facilities will close next month.
The West Virginia Public Employees Daycare, the Shawnee Daycare and the Elk Center Daycare announced Tuesday they will end services by March 28 or sooner.
The daycare centers, which currently serve 120 students and have 40 people on staff, have operated at a loss for the past several years, and since the school year started, have lost about $65,000, according to Bob Calhoun, Kanawha County Schools Executive Director of Elementary Education.
The daycares -- which enroll children up to 4 years old -- are run by the Kanawha County Schools Community Education Program, which operates various school programs outside of class time.
The daycare centers receive no funding from the public school system and rely solely on fees charged to families. In addition to a financial deficit, the centers have faced increased facility costs and decreased enrollment, according to Calhoun.
"Community education is self sufficient. We operate on the funds that we bring in," Calhoun said. "I'm very disappointed. It's not something you want to do. We're taking the livelihood away from 40 people and causing distress for 120 families."
In a letter addressed to parents on Tuesday, Calhoun and Community Education Program Director Clara Jett pointed to the Affordable Care Act as another contributor to the closures, citing looming insurance costs for employees.
"We would have to start offering an insurance to employees. Right now, [employees] are contracted. So we'd have to start offering benefits, either that or double staff and reduce their hours, and it's just not something we're able to do," Calhoun said.
But Brandon Merritt, a health policy analyst for the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy and a parent of a 1-year-old at the Public Employees Daycare, said the ACA is not an excuse.
"I can state emphatically that they are not impacted by the Affordable Care Act," Merritt said.
That's because the law does not require small employers -- those with fewer than 50 workers -- to offer insurance.
"Now we are scrambling to find child care ASAP as every other daycare in the county has a waiting list," Merritt said. "If it is the Public Employees' Day Care, why isn't there any state government funding? There are thousands of state employees who work at the Capitol Complex or downtown -- my wife included -- and a state supported daycare seems like it should be a necessity to me."