Tasmania's childcare sector is on the brink of collapse due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Discovery Early Learning Centres chief executive Jo Walsh said the situation was "dire" as attendance at childcare centres had plummeted.
"Parents are staying at home and keeping their children at home with them," Ms Walsh said.
"We are trying to maintain enrolments but putting food on the table is understandably more important than childcare costs."
Ms Walsh, who runs 21 services across Tasmania employing 380 staff, said casual workers had not been employed for two weeks and other staff were being asked to take leave.
"It is a tricky sector to work in and our staff live pay to pay," she said.
"Where we might have 60 children, today we have only 20 and where there might be 20 there are now just four.
"We have a noose around our neck - we need government support to remain viable and stay open."
Ms Walsh said it was impossible to keep safe distancing between young children.
Early Childhood Australia Tasmanian president Ros Cornish said the sector was struggling to pay wages without government support.
"The decline in children attending our centres statewide means organisations have insufficient income to pay frontline educators and staff," Ms Cornish said.
There are more than 260 centres and 3000 staff in Tasmania, looking after more than 23,000 children and 16,000 families each year.
The government's key message for people to stay home is one which Ms Cornish echoes.
"But the Government also wants essential workers - nurses, doctors, health care providers and police - to go to work, many of whom require early childhood education and care," she said,
"Parents are withdrawing their children from our centres in droves as we are left to grapple with how to pay wages as usage drops and overheads remain the same - with no Government assistance or direction," she said.
"Without Government support, every day a service remains open is another day their immediate and longer-term viability is impacted. We are not eligible to receive the government childcare subsidy if we lose enrolments and choose to close.
"The only way to continue receiving the subsidy is for the government to shut us down or support our staff with wage subsidies."
Tasmania's Premier Peter Gutwein said discussions at a national level to determine how best to support childcare centres were ongoing.
He said if people still had jobs they should use childcare because centres were taking every step they could to ensure the safety of children.
Tasmania's Labor leader Rebecca White said the federal government needed to act as a matter of urgency to support the sector.
"There must be an orderly and supported closure of childcare centres, in line with the same principles of school closures, to protect the future viability of those businesses, the need for ongoing care for some children, and the health and safety of childcare workers and the children they care for," Ms White said.
"The approach for the childcare sector must mirror that taken for schools, where childcare would remain available for children who still require care - such as the children of essential workers."