Already On The Margins, Child Care Providers Look For Coronavirus Relief

Early educators watch over students as they nap in Long Beach. (Mariana Dale/ LAist)

Child care providers around the state are closing as parents whose jobs are deemed "non-essential" have been told to stay home with their kids to stop the spread of coronavirus.

"Child care programs are already kind of operating on the margins," said Lea Austin, director for the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at UC Berkeley.

In California, the number of home child care providers has been on the decline for the last decade, with more than a quarter of providers closing since 2008.

"Many family child care providers in particular are going to be hard hit financially, because they're self employed," said consultant Tom Copeland. "They're not eligible for unemployment, not eligible for sick care, insurance payments (and) government help."

But that could change. Here's what we know about the financial relief available for child care providers:

  • The California Department of Education will continue to pay providers who serve low-income families that use several state subsidy programs, even if they close or parents keep kids home.
  • California legislators approved $100 million to pay for cleaning costs at schools and child care centers. Representatives with the California Department of Social Services said on a conference call with providers last week that the agency would be able to help providers find sanitizers and other supplies like gloves.
  • Child Care Providers United, the union that is seeking to represent California providers, is circulating a petition asking Gov. Gavin Newsom to provide coronavirus testing, treatment, and sick and family leave for workers. "As providers fighting for a voice through our union, we will continue to advocate so that all providers are protected," Deanna Robles, a Baldwin Park family child care provider and union board member said in a statement to LAist.
  • National advocacy groups are urging Congress to include up to $50 billion of funding in the stimulus package to support the child care workforce. "This already fragile system is vulnerable to impacts of mass closures with a likelihood that many providers will never reopen," Myra Jones-Taylor, chief policy officer of Zero to Three, said in a letter to Congressional leaders asking for money for additional pay for child care workers, diapers and early childhood mental health services.
  • President Donald Trump said on Sunday that he would "very quickly" grant California's major disaster declaration. The Child Care Law Center says self-employed child care providers could qualify for new unemployment benefits under the declaration, which would free up federal funding and support for the state's response to the pandemic.

Copeland, a child care business consultant for more than three decades, has some other advice for providers.

  • Check your contracts - do you require parents to pay in the event providers or other staff become sick, or if you have to close in the event of an emergency? "Child care providers have a lot of control over designing their own contracts and policies," Copeland said. Providers can change their contracts now if it's done in writing and signed off on by parents. Here's a sample letter Copeland created.
  • If demand is high, consider changing your policies to only provide care for families who are required to continue working. "It's not illegal discrimination to terminate one family in order to care for another family that has special needs under these crisis situations," Copeland said. Providers looking for new business could offer more flexible hours, like on the weekends or overnight, to parents who might need temporary relief instead of full-time care.
  • Note additional expenses for supplies such as cleaners, to deduct from your business income at tax time next year.