Where are the Child Care Dollars?
There is so much uncertainty in the world today and particularly in our child care and early learning worlds.
From day to day, our community based agencies are hearing the pleas from parents, many of whom are essential workers, unable to work because family child care providers and child care centers have closed their doors or must operate with reduced capacity. Further, we are hearing from the families that do not have the choice to shelter-in-place with their children or to support their children with distance learning because their schools are closed that they desperately need access to child care.
On the flip side, we are hearing from providers confused over whether they are to close down or stay open depending on who is issuing the stay at home orders. And if they close, will they get paid and will that payment be timely.
The craziness that is our world right now will not be forever. However, if Governor Newsom and our elected officials do not immediately begin to take real action to support family child care providers and centers in keeping their doors open, families will not be able to go back to work. Said another way, California's economy can not rebound if families have no access to child care.
I am having flashbacks to 2010 wherein we were in a deep depression, the unemployment numbers were in the double digits of between 12.3 percent to 15.5 percent. California's child care system was underfunded with providers making roughly $2.00 per hour to $6.00 depending on the type of child care setting. In 2020, California's unemployment number is hovering at roughly 11 percent. Family child care providers are being reimbursed at roughly $3.00 per hour to $8.00 per hour.
So where are we?
Up until roughly August 30, there was the political will to get the allocated federal and state dollars distributed relatively quickly to support parents accessing needed child care and to stabilize child care provider funding. Community based agencies rose to the challenge and enrolled essential workers for child care so that our hospitals, grocery stores, public transportation and others could keep California operational.
However, since roughly September 1, the child care field has been challenged by bureaucracy and red tape that has constricted the flow of allocated dollars from actually reaching child care providers. For instance, in July 2020, $50 million was allocated from a special fund operated by the Department of Health Care Services to expand full-day full-year childcare for essential and working families. To this writing, the "paperwork" to transfer those funds to actually get the monies flowing into centers to enroll families is in limbo. Essential workers and our poorest of working families that desperately need access to child care in these centers are being ignored. And to add insult to injury, some of the centers that were notified that they were to receive a part of the $50 million tapped into their lines of credit to immediately begin enrolled families. These centers are now on the brink of total closure.
Other monies such as the $31.2 million allocated for provider stipends on September 10 for distribution to child care and migrant providers that accept vouchers to cover costs associated with COVID, not released. The $30 million to cover the family fees for those families that shelter-in-place or distance learning, never released. The $80 million to reimburse providers for holding a space for a family that does not show up so that the family child care provider can continue to pay bills and keep offering child care, never released.
Everyone reading this is encouraged to contact your elected officials and ask them to get the monies allocated for child care released ASAP! Our families and child care providers deserve to be treated better than this. The monies were allocated. Now get them released so that more families have access to care and parents can work.