Letters: AB 1649 protects access to child care
Thousands of California’s poorest working families, including many here in Madera, are in danger of losing their subsidized child care in the coming weeks. As the operator of several child care facilities here in Madera, Fresno and Clovis, I myself am faced with the possibility that I’ll have to dis-enroll 600 of these families unless the Legislature passes, and Governor Gavin Newsom signs, legislation to prevent this crisis.
Assembly Bill 1649 by Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton) and co-authored by our own State Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) would preserve a statewide policy currently in place as a result of Newsom’s Executive Order N-45-20, and which is set to expire on June 30. This policy provides California’s low income working families with a set and stable voucher to help cover the cost of child care. Newsom issued this order during the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that subsidized family child care providers must be paid for the cost of reserving a child care slot for a family regardless of the attendance of the child. This is particularly important for working families with variable work schedules, outside of the traditional 9-5 work schedule.
If AB 1649 fails and this policy expires, it’s California’s poorest working families who have the most to lose. Locally, these families are largely comprised of students, retail and service industry workers, and part time workers. Across the state, many of these families are made up of single mothers, families of color and essential workers earning minimum wage. They are the families who make our economy work, and they deserve fair access to safe, affordable, consistent child care for their children and babies.
For providers like me, who get reimbursed after care has been provided, AB 1649 ensures I can count on a guaranteed reimbursement if I hold a slot for a family who needs it. Just like providers in the private-pay market that charge families set monthly or weekly rates, subsidized family child care providers are businesses with ongoing operational costs and staff salaries to pay — regardless of the attendance of a child. I have more than 300 employees — I have to look out for them. If I can’t count on a guaranteed reimbursement from the state for families that may not utilize the child care slot I’m holding for them, then I need to give those slots to someone else to stay in business. To expect a child care business to take on the financial risk of uncertain reimbursement for holding a slot for a subsidized family is not a risk I can afford to take.
AB 1649 is a win for working families, a win for providers and, because it can be completely funded by child care dollars that are allocated but unspent every year, it’s also a win for the state. The alternative is that these children, who are currently thriving in homes and classrooms, face being cast into chaos via mass dis-enrollment. That’s to say nothing of the businesses and employers who rely on these workers, and will likely lose them when they cannot work any longer due to lack of child care.
California’s current policy has provided stability for tens of thousands of children in subsidized child care settings, but time is running out. Rather than trigger a collapse of California’s child care industry, chaos for California’s low-income working families, and an abrupt halt to economic recovery, the Legislature and the Governor must keep this policy alive.
— Jim Fisher,