Last week, more than 605 Pro-Kid organizations signed on to this letter urging state leaders to prioritize child care in the 2022-23 State Budget and increase child care worker wages and benefits; waive family fees and increase access; invest in infrastructure and workforce development grants; continue pandemic and economic recovery aid; and prioritize child care workers for emergency relief.
By investing in the people and systems that serve kids, together, we can ensure that all of California’s young children are provided with the enriching, safe, and nurturing early learning and care opportunities they need to thrive.
The letter has already had significant impact, as the Legislature’s version of the budget passed on Monday contains many of the asks we lifted up in the letter. We need to keep pushing for the rest, including increased support for the child care workforce, over the coming weeks and months (as the Governor and Legislature could make some adjustments to the budget in August).
CA must make child care our top priority in this State Budget
Dear Governor Newsom and State Legislators,
The undersigned organizations urge you to bolster the final budget agreement and further prioritize early learning and child care in the 2022-23 State Budget.
As state leaders, you have a once in a generation opportunity to make even stronger investments in the systems that serve kids, especially Black, Latino, and other children of color, dual language learners, and children growing up in low-income households – the majority of California’s children. We urge you to meet the urgency of the hour and address the short-term crisis in early learning and child care while putting a down payment on the billions of dollars needed to equitably support the human and physical infrastructure needed to build a stronger future. As you make tough choices and determine your budget priorities, kids and working families must be at the top of the list.
California’s youngest children, their families and adults who care for them have borne the brunt of a perfect storm: the devastating human and economic impacts of the pandemic – serving the last remaining population of unvaccinated Californians; the 40% increase in the minimum wage without aligned increases for the child care field; and rapidly rising inflation. All of these forces have made it extremely difficult for many in the field to remain open and up to a quarter have closed their doors at some point during the past two years. Like so many in the care economy, California’s child care providers are emotionally and financially exhausted from the COVID-pandemic and parents of young children are left making increasingly difficult choices about returning to work and finding safe, affordable child care for their young children. These closures are amidst a backdrop of serving as few as 14% of eligible infants and toddlers and one-third of children under 6 before the pandemic and 58% of child care workers using one or more public assistance programs. Yet, statewide, early learning classrooms remain empty because there are not enough people applying to these positions with sub-par wages, with no benefits, and stressful conditions, when viable, higher paying jobs are available. The funding of additional slots will be wasted if these structural problems are not addressed.
To ensure California’s young children are provided with enriching, safe and nurturing early learning and care opportunities, and to enable California’s economy to fully reopen, robust and stable early learning and child care must be available. We are supporting the Early Care and Education (ECE) Coalition budget requests – investments and policies that support the Coalition’s vision of child care and early childhood education systems that serve and meet the diverse needs of all children, families and ECE professionals. We are asking for investments that are informed by current research and are led by the expertise of families and ECE professionals. Specifically, we are asking for the following:
Increasing Child Care Provider Wages and Benefits
$1 billion for rates, $50 million to support local Head Start programs who serve California’s children living in poverty, and $400-$600 million for health care and retirement benefits and paid time off days for all family child care providers.
Waiving Family Fees and Increasing Access
$187 million to extend the waiving of family fees through September 30, 2024, for all families with child care subsidies.
$310 million to invest in Child Care Infrastructure Grants and to fund a Department of Housing and Community Development study on implementing and providing start-up funding for a low-interest loan and grant program that supports financing for child care centers and family child care housing units that are co-located with affordable housing projects.
Workforce Development Grants
We request $250 million for restoration of the Early Learning and Care Workforce Development Grants Program, and we propose special funds for family, friend, and neighbor provider support and specific professional development for providers who support dual language learners (DLL), who make up 60% of the children in California.
Continued Pandemic and Economic Recovery Aid
We join the ECE Coalition in requesting the continuance of several COVID-pandemic policies into 2022-23. To ensure child care providers can keep their doors open during a future COVID surge, they need to be “held harmless” for attendance drops, and they need additional paid COVID sick days and maximum flexibility to allow unspent dollars to be carried over to next year and allow community contractors and providers to exhaust available relief funds.
Prioritize California’s Child Care Providers for Emergency Relief
In addition, we ask that child care providers are eligible for and prioritized in the state’s SMARTER Plan implementation for emergency relief funding, testing supplies and PPE, as they continue to navigate evolving economic and public health variables. As providers supporting the last remaining age group without access to vaccines, these important caregivers deserve additional support as prior early relief funds end and leave them at further risk for personal and economic strain.
To prevent another catastrophic hit to California’s youngest children, their families, providers, and the economy due to an inadequate investment in and availability of affordable, comprehensive early learning and child care, the undersigned organizations are urging you to support these budget priorities.
The Undersigned Organizations