Following a year of financial devastation and risk to health and well-being imposed by the pandemic, California child care providers and advocates are celebrating successful negotiations with state leaders over pay.
The elements of the collective bargaining agreement between the SEIU Local 99 Union and the State of California must be ratified by vote in the coming weeks, but the agreement is expected to pass.
Most notably in the agreement, child care providers will receive a pay increase for the first time since 2018. Even that rate increase was based on data from 2016, which means provider pay had fallen five years behind.
This agreement comes after child care providers experienced pandemic-related hardships, including challenging new health and safety requirements, limited capacity, and even closure. Many child care providers contracted COVID-19 or were faced with caring for family members who became ill, further depleting their already tapped resources. Due to COVID-19, thousands of child care providers – both home-based and center-based – closed permanently, creating child care deserts in many communities.
“The official definition of a child care desert is anywhere where we have three or more children with only one space available,” James Moses, CCRC’s regional director in San Bernardino, says in a recent L.A. Times video interview. “In San Bernardino County, for example, we have 400,000 children between 0 and 12 and we have approximately… 38,000 licensed care slots. But we have estimates that we lost 20 percent of those slots during the pandemic, so that would put us around 30,000 slots for 400,000 children. That’s a child care desert.”
Before the agreement was reached to increase rate reimbursements for providers, the risk of child care deserts growing was high. First 5 San Bernardino Executive Director Karen Scott says the solution starts with valuing the work of providers.
“Child care providers are essential and they have to be compensated fairly,” Scott says in the video. “It is a whole child, whole family, whole community frame issue.”
This historic achievement in California’s child care sector comes after a year-long push by providers and advocates to demand fair pay and, thus, expanded access to child care for millions of families who depend on this service. CCRC commends all our child care partners, including our own Government Relations team, for the hard-won victory.