NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — It’s been less than a month since coronavirus-related federal funding for childcare centers, which was approved as part of the American Rescue Plan Act in 2021, was cut off. Some Middle Tennessee childcare centers are already feeling the pinch.

The Childcare Stabilization grant provided $24 billion in financial aid to more than 220,000 childcare centers during the pandemic.

After the funding ended Sept. 30, Priscilla Norman, owner of Priscilla’s Creative Daycare in Hermitage, told News 2 she has to find a new way to offset increased costs.

“[The grant] helped me tremendously with payroll,” Norman said. “When people started back working, a lot of people just didn’t want to come to work; people don’t want to work, especially if they’re not making a lot of money, so I gave an increase. To be quite honest, my daughters work with me, but they’ve got families of their own.”

Norman also used the funds to pay for additional cleaning supplies and professional cleaning services.

She told News 2 the grant’s end couldn’t have come at a worse time with inflation. Now, she has no other choice but to raise her rates, and she empathizes with the parents.

“I’m a mother [too],” Norman said. “I know it’s a struggle. I know that the parents are going to be struggling to pay the rate, although my rates are cheaper than a lot of centers and a lot of other people. I can do it that way because I have a lot of my finances in order where I don’t have a lot of overhead, so I can afford to do that, but now it’s starting to penny pinch [and] getting tight on me as well.”

Experts estimate around 70,000 childcare centers will be forced to close their doors for good now that the grant money has been cut off.

Norman expects home daycares that lose the funding will be hit especially hard due to strict staff-to-child ratios. If employers have to lay off staff, that means they won’t be able to care for as many children as before.

“It’s just hard…not knowing where the funds are going to come from or if a parent is not going to be able to pay,” Norman said. “It’s been a blessing thus far, and parents haven’t complained.”