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CA child care providers hold candlelight vigils to draw attention to COVID-19 impact

California child care providers held “vigils” this week to draw attention to their plight during the COVID-19 crisis. (Photo credit: CCPU staff)
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By David Myles ·

California child care providers held socially distanced candlelight vigils outside the offices of Gov. Gavin Newsom in Fresno, Los Angeles and San Diego this week, bringing attention to the loss of over 5,600 child care businesses in their state this year due to COVID-19.

Providers, represented by Child Care Providers United (CCPU), were joined by community members to implore state leaders to take urgent action. State support is needed to take care of California’s child care system, the parents who count on it to work front-line jobs, and the children who rely on access to critical early childhood education.

“As a single mom, working on the front line in health care, I have peace of mind at work while my daughter is enrolled in local child care,” said Vanessa Okeefea parent from Alameda County. “It’s a great relief to know she’s safe, receiving support while distance learning and her school work is getting completed.”

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Tuesday’s vigils comprised the third statewide day of action held by CCPU members in the last month focused on California’s child care crisis.

In response, the state took meaningful action last week by waiving family fees for children not attending care, a step in the right direction to support stability in the early care and education systems. Yet, scores of providers are still closing each week, and the vast majority are businesses owned by women of color. For some providers, the 2008 recession’s scars are still fresh, as many closed, never recovered financially and were unable to reopen.

“My child care has been open for 16 years. I worked overnight for six years to obtain my associate degree in early childhood development to offer the highest quality of care in my area,” said Claudia Carcamo, a provider from Los Angeles. “But once COVID-19 struck, I went from 14 children to three. I am devastated, and if we don’t get concrete help soon, I will have to close my doors this December.”

A recent study showed provider costs associated with the pandemic have increased by up to 75% as they take on additional expenses and duties to support distance learning for school-age children whose parents must work. Costs include hiring extra staff to support online learning; necessary equipment upgrades, including more robust internet capacity; and the purchasing of additional computers and essential supplies such as food and sanitation products.

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Child care providers who were already on the brink before COVID-19 simply can’t afford to absorb these costs. Local education officials have also joined CCPU’s call for the state to keep child care providers afloat during the pandemic.

Studies like this one from the Economic Policy Institute have shown that access to quality early childhood education drastically reduces achievement gaps through high school graduation, which is particularly important since many of the children providers care for are minorities.

“We need Gov. Newsom to step up and ensure early childhood education is funded, and that starts by keeping family child care providers open during a pandemic,” said Geniese Ligon, a vice principal from San Diego. “It is time for our government to stop spinning out of control and to start spending on our future.”

Child care providers are asking the state to: 

  • Generate revenues to increase reimbursement rates for providers who have children in their care participating in distance learning to accurately reflect the cost of this care, as some providers have seen their monthly costs increase by up to 75%.
  • Financially support providers who have to close their doors out of an abundance of caution following potential COVID-19 exposure so that they’re able to reopen and continue to serve as essential workers in our communities.

Child Care Providers United brings together over 40,000 family child care providers across California and is a partnership of SEIU Local 99, SEIU Local 521, and UDW/AFSCME Local 3930.

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