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Bay County officials work to fix childcare shortage

BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — The nationwide childcare shortage is affecting Bay County families, but the Bay County Chamber of Commerce is stepping in to help.

“There’s waitlists. I mean, honestly, they’re having trouble finding a space for their child to go every single day,” Education Services Director for the Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida Lindsey Holmes said.

Holmes said despite 8 new daycares opening since Hurricane Michael, Some families are still left without a place to send their kids.

“Parents are seeking alternative forms of child care that could be a family member,” Holmes said. “They might be hiring a nanny. I don’t know. But we know that those children don’t have a place to go right now. “

In anticipation of thousands of airmen and their families expected to move to Tyndall in the coming years, the airforce has built a childcare center that can hold up to 300 little ones.

It’s not open yet, but there’s already a waiting list.

“Both military bases leaders said, ‘Hey, we have a problem,” Bay County Chamber of Commerce Chairman Kyle Shoots said. “We need help and we’re there.’ They came to the chamber today. Is this something you guys can help us with?

Shoots said they’re working with both the public and private sectors to help make childcare more available.

“Think when you start dealing with childcare, you start dealing with a lot of different regulations,” Shoots said. “You start dealing with different organizations that monitor and set standards for that. And I think right now our focus is getting the right people to the table to figure out how do we cut that red tape.”

While it’ll take time for these changes to take effect Holmes said there are things parents can do in the meantime.

“Get on all of the wait lists. If they want to go to a childcare center every single day,” Holmes said. “They, they need to get on that list as soon as possible.”