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California family child care providers sound the alarm on a system in crisis

Family child care provider Mirren Algorri speaks in San Diego. (Photo by Khaleelah Elhajoui/UDW)
California family child care providers sound the alarm on a system in crisis
California family child care providers sound the alarm on a system in crisis
Charlotte Neal, a family child care provider and UDW/CCPU member from Sacramento, speaks at a rally outside the California State Capitol building. (Photo by Cherie Parker/UDW)

LOS ANGELES – Hundreds of family child care providers held rallies and car caravans across California on Wednesday to call attention to a system in crisis.

Represented by Child Care Providers United (CCPU), parents and community members joined providers for socially distanced events outside Gov. Gavin Newsom’s offices in Los Angeles, Fresno, Sacramento and San Diego.

“We need Governor Newsom to intervene and stabilize the child care system. Front-line workers are counting on us to care for their children so they can perform life-saving work,” said Charlotte Neal, a UDW/CCPU member from Sacramento. “We’ve lost 5,000 family child care providers [in California] already this year, and those of us remaining are on the brink; Governor Newsom, please help our small businesses survive this pandemic and be a part of California’s recovery.” 

CCPU represents more than 40,000 family child care providers across California and is a partnership of SEIU Local 99, SEIU Local 521, and UDW/AFSCME Local 3930.

Wednesday’s actions came on the last day before providers must absorb the cost of family fees for children not attending due to COVID-19, due to the federal government’s failure to provide funding by a state-mandated deadline. Earlier this month, Newsom signed into law Senate Bill 820, which waived some family fees, gave providers more paid closure days due to COVID-19, and addressed parent signatures when families are staying home. Yet, while it is a good start, SB 820 doesn’t do nearly enough to address this crisis.

Providers like UDW/CCPU member Miren Algorri from San Diego fear that these fees mean another financial blow for her and other providers.

“We're being asked to pay close to $1,000 in fees every month to the state to keep a slot open,” said Algorri. “Many providers across the state are facing this type of situation and are looking at closing their doors because they cannot afford this unnecessary tax. ... It’s time for the state to right this wrong and not fault families or providers who are just trying to keep our communities safe during the pandemic.”

Many providers have even stepped in to care for children participating in distance learning while school campuses remain closed because of COVID-19 – without any additional compensation.

SEIU 99/CCPU member Justine Flores from East Los Angeles has invested more than $5,000 in distance learning since the pandemic started.

“I am caring for kids all day and night, whereas in the past school-age children only attended after 3 p.m.,” said Flores. “As schools closed, the cost of supporting this new way of learning has created a drastic shift in my learning space, from accommodating quiet learning to more expensive Wi-Fi. The state needs to pay us adequately for the high-quality education we’re providing for kids in distance learning across the state.”

Riley Talford, an SEIU 521 member from Fresno County, was among the front-line workers who joined child care providers to call attention to how this crisis affects parents.

“I cannot go to work and support my family if I don’t have someone to care for my kids,” said Talford. “I am so grateful for child care providers who have been able to keep their doors open so that working families like mine can continue to provide for their families and support our community. I know Governor Newsom cares deeply about this issue, and we truly hope he can save more providers from having to close their doors.”

To cap off the day’s actions, civil rights icon and legendary labor leader Dolores Huerta lent her support to California’s child care providers.

“Child care providers are essential to this state’s economic recovery because they are taking care of the children of the essential workers, and in fact, they are essential workers,” Huerta said in a pre-recorded video. “So, we’re calling on state agencies and the governor: please bring economic relief to our child care providers.” 

More than 5,000 child care providers have closed this year – over 200 in the last week alone. To resolve this crisis and ensure that more family child care providers don’t have to close their doors, CCPU is asking the State of California to:

  • Increase reimbursement rates for providers who have children in their care participating in distance learning, as some providers have seen their monthly costs increase by up to 75%;
  • Provide financial support for providers who have to close their doors out of an abundance of caution following potential COVID-19 exposure; and
  • Continue to cover family fees for children who receive child care subsidies when parents choose to keep them home to prevent COVID-19 spread or exposure, instead of levying a tax against providers.

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