You wanted your kids to have the time of their lives this summer (and be supervised while you were at work), so you enrolled them in summer camp. Unfortunately, the camp was canceled as a result of COVID-19, and you have no idea if you’ll receive a refund.
Sound familiar? This scenario is all too familiar at the moment for many parents.
Some have been fortunate enough to receive correspondence regarding the next steps. Others have been left in the dark and have no idea about the status of the summer camp. Calls have not been returned, and inquiries have gone answered. Even worse, hundreds or thousands of dollars of their hard-earned money may be gone forever with nothing to show for it.
Maybe it wouldn’t be a big deal if things weren’t in such disarray. However, many Americans are financially strapped and need their cash now more than ever. For those who are fortunate enough to still be employed, will it be possible to continue working from home (if needed) while tending to little ones?
If you’re dealing with this situation, read on for some suggestions to get the clarity you need.
Read the Fine Print
Is there verbiage in the contract regarding national disasters and pandemics? This could be the very reason why you aren’t hearing much from the staff. Some contracts stipulate that any deposits or tuition payments made are non-refundable. Others specify the length of time that the camp must be closed to get your money back. Or there may be a policy that indicates the payor must request a refund in writing before funds can be returned to their account.
The good news is some camp providers may be willing to remedy the issue. In light of COVID-19, they may be offering partial refunds or credit towards a future camp.
Contact The Camp Management
Have you tried escalating your inquiry to management? The local camp counselor who responds to general questions may not care much about your grievance. Remember, they may be dealing with their own financial struggles and trying to figure out how they’ll earn money in the summer.
On the other hand, a camp director will probably be more inclined to respond. They want to preserve their reputation and avoid too much negative press. Otherwise, enrollment numbers for future camps could suffer once the COVID-19 crisis is over. This is especially the case for camps offered by corporations with a large commercial ax to grind.
Cancel Any Future Withdrawals
At this point, you’ve probably already contacted your bank to stop payment on any future withdrawals from the camp. If not, give them a call right away. You will pay for a stop payment to be issued, but it beats having hundreds or even thousands being withdrawn from your account.
Does the camp offer a portal for parents to remit payment? Login and cancel any recurring payments you may have scheduled earlier in the year. In the case where you think a camp is wrongfully keeping your payment, you can dispute the charge with your credit card company or bank as well.
What To Do If You Can’t Get a Refund From the Camp?
You’ve read the fine print or spoken with a camp representative and learned you aren’t eligible for a refund? Now what?
Here are a few worthwhile options:
- Request a credit for next year. If the camp was canceled, it’s highly unlikely that they’ll reverse their decision before the summer starts. However, you can submit a written request for a credit to your account that can be used for next summer. You want to send this correspondence electronically to have a paper trail.
- Transfer the account credit. You can also request that the credit be transferred to a sibling, relative or friend if your child will age out of the camp.
- Ask that the deposit be donated to charity. On the hook for several thousand dollars? A charitable donation could mean tax savings for you. Even if you don’t qualify, you can have some consolation knowing that your funds are going towards a good cause.
Explore Options for Childcare
If you’re still working or going back to work soon, you may be scrambling to find childcare because of camp cancellations. Ask around for recommendations from others. Reach out to individuals who are in the medical field and have had to find childcare for a few months now. They may know of facilities or in-home childcare options that can assist. In many areas, smaller daycares are beginning to open back up under new COVID-19 guidelines, and many babysitters and nannies are returning to work as well.
If you’re not comfortable with that, how about asking relatives and friends? Maybe you know someone who wants to earn some extra money and could lend a helping hand. Other parents may also be willing to swap childcare services with you if you work opposite schedules. Grandparents are also ideal and will more than likely offer their services for free – just be sure that they don’t have underlying health conditions.
A Final Thought
The coronavirus has ravaged the economy and disrupted life as we all know it. Summer cancellations only add to the mounting disappointment that kids are already facing from not being able to interact with their peers. So, instead of chalking the cancellation up as a loss, it’s worth the effort to seek answers and monetary remedies until you get results.