by Denyne Micheletti Colburn, CEO of CAPPA
Since the start of the pandemic until now, California’s child care businesses and work force have been devastated. During the peaks of the COVID-19 crisis where certain workers were classified as “essential” and the governor routinely declared one Executive Order after another, while the cameras were rolling access to stable child care was noted as critical.
Now that the cameras on this issue have all but stopped, so has the attention paid to child care. Solving California’s child care crisis is not only critical to families but is also critical to supporting a growing and thriving economy.
Unfortunately, the only time that child care is even referenced, is when there is discussion surrounding that some of it be provided within the public-school system. However, for working parents that have jobs requiring care before school starts, in the evening or on weekends, they simply are out of luck. Compounding the situation is the huge gift of monies to the schools to design and recruit new teachers to begin providing the care.
Let’s contrast Governor’s Newsom’s gift to design and recruit for care provided through the schools versus his funding for child care for working families to access; care that not too long ago was critical during COVID.
For private child care businesses, essentially, they received little. Yes, new rates were implemented in January. However, let’s be honest. Those state reimbursement rates implemented were outdated before they were implemented. California’s child care field was just so hungry to even be noticed that immediately the new rates were welcomed until we actually saw the data.
Even now, when California has a massive revenue surplus, there is avoidance of taking action to support longer term relief for working families such as elimination of family fees for the poorest of families and fair and equitable access to subsidized child care by all income eligible families. Unfortunately, this governor has decided that there is no room in his $40 billion plus surplus to eliminate family fees and establish a fair access for families because it may cost roughly $140 million initially. Seriously?
For child care businesses that are roughly comprised of over 80 percent small business owners, California unfortunately continues to experience an exodus of these businesses. The problem every one of us see daily in our communities of Help Wanted posted everywhere will worsen. Parents cannot go to work without child care. And child care businesses cannot continue to stay viable if their funding and rates are not adequate to cover the cost of providing care.
California is headed for a child care cliff. Let’s hope that our governor and legislature correct this coarse before it is too late and child care businesses are shuttered, parents are unable to access care and unemployed and California’s economy is put into a tailspin.