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Child Care Providers Will Get More Financial Help From The State 

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A home day care in South Los Angleles. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)
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Members of California's child care union who have continued to operate during the pandemic will get additional financial relief from the state under a new labor agreement.

The tentative pact, which still requires legislative approval, includes:

  • A one-time $525 stipend for each child enrolled in a subsidized child care program. This program is typically available to low-income families but during the pandemic it has been extended to essential workers.
  • 16 additional paid closure days in the event that a provider has to temporarily shut down because of COVID-19.
  • Establishing a working group to discuss how California should spend an estimated $700 million in federal money for child care included in the most recent coronavirus relief act – $300 million was already designated through last year’s budget.
  • A grievance process to settle any disputes related to the agreement.

The stipends will be funded through the federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Act and cost an estimated $144 million. The $31.25 million for the additional closure days will be pulled from leftover money allocated for the same purpose last year.
California's legislature has to approve the stipends and paid closure days before the 43,000 providers represented by the union will see any of the money.

"We cannot stop putting the pressure on the state of California," said union chair Max Arias. "This is just the first step."

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The average pay L.A. County family child care providers, who are largely women of color, is $11.73 an hour.

Almost half of California family child care providers haven't been able to pay themselves at some point during the pandemic and 22% missed a rent or mortgage payment, according to a survey from the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at UC Berkeley.

As of January 25, 2,599 licensed child care homes had closed permanently since the start of the pandemic, according to the California Department of Social Services.

While there have been relatively few reported coronavirus cases in child care settings, home-based child care providers also carry the burden of potentially exposing their families to the virus.

Signal Hill family child care provider Zoila Carolina Toma has had to shut down three times during the pandemic, once when she and her family were sick with COVID-19 and twice for possible exposures.

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Toma plans to use the money and the stipend to continue paying her assistant but says for other providers, it won't be enough to pay off the debt they've built up over the last year.

"It was not an easy decision because unfortunately some providers are going to be out, no doubt," said Toma, who's a member of the union's bargaining committee.

The details of the agreement will exclude some providers who've cared for families in the subsidy program during the pandemic. For example, the stipends will be calculated based on a providers' enrollment as of November 2020.

Toma knows from running her own business that enrollment has fluctuated from day to day during the pandemic. Her license allows her to care for up to 14 children but on Tuesday just six showed up.

LAist has reached out to the state's Department of Human Resources for comment.

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