The Chautauqua Lake Child Care Center in Mayville has seen a dramatic decrease in the number of children, as more families are staying home because of COVID-19.

"We're serving about a quarter of the children that we served previously," said Beth Starks, Chautauqua Lake Child Care Center executive director.

Starks says the center usually serves about 120 kids, and with the loss of families comes a greater loss of income.

The center is now looking to actively recruit kids of all ages from families who may have never needed access to daycare before.

"Particularly for the families who are essential workers right now, we want them to know that we're here, that we're open. That we're practicing all of the up-to-date policies and procedures we need to for the children to remain safe," said Starks.

Starks says smaller numbers mean smaller class sizes during indoor activities, and plenty of distancing space for outdoor fun as well. 

Fewer families also means a reduction in staff, as the center kept its 10 full-time employees, but is without its 11 part-timers.

"Hopefully as numbers kind of level out, that we're able to keep everyone that wants to keep working. It may come to a point where we have to consider layoffs depending on the numbers and depending on our status," said Starks.

In an effort to help out, county health leaders received a state waiver to serve more families, raise the eligibility income level and decrease the family co-payment.

County leaders say they also had additional funds available from a federal child care development block grant.

"So we were able to roll those funds over to now use to help to subsidize more of the child care needs of a wider range of population of people," said Dr. Christine Schuyler, Chautauqua County director of Health and Human Services.

Sparks says the nonprofit operates on a tight budget, and is also working to seek outside funding sources to make care more affordable.

The center and its board has also modified its fee policy for families wanting the center to hold a spot for the future.

"Especially those who are home and not getting paid. Ethically, how can we ask them to pay to hold a spot here when they have no income coming in and they're struggling," said Starks.

It’s all part of the center's delicate balance between being affordable and covering its expenses.

"So that when this is all over and we resume normal activities that we still are available for families," said Starks.

Starks says the center is also in need of donations, namely hand sanitizer, baby wipes, and thermometers.