Standing Friday outside the elementary school she attended as a child, Assemblymember Eloise Gomez Reyes accepted an award from Child Care Resource Center for her work supporting children, families and child care providers.
“When I heard that the H.E.A.R.T Award stood for Helping Everyone Achieve Real Tomorrows, that warmed my heart because that’s what we’re trying to do,” Reyes said. “Especially for our children, they deserve everything, not just my children but every child.”
Reyes sponsored AB-92, a bill that gives immediate relief to families and child care providers by waiving family fees through 2023. The measure acts as a stopgap for families who, especially during the pandemic, struggle to pay the family fee for child care.
“When they can’t pay, the providers take it on. It’s not fair,” Reyes said. “We have to protect both the parents and providers in whatever it is we do.”
For her advocacy work and efforts to pass this key piece of legislation, CCRC honored the Assemblymember at a small ceremony outside Woodrow Wilson Elementary School in Colton. Speakers included First 5 San Bernardino Executive Director Karen Scott, Child Care Law Center Staff Attorney Karina Laigo, and child care providers, among other advocates. As he introduced the legislator, CCRC President & CEO Dr. Michael Olenick reflected on his and CCRC San Bernardino Regional Director James Moses’ first meeting with Reyes.
“As soon as Eloise got elected, James and I came and visited her at her office,” Dr. Olenick said. “We both walked out and said ‘this is a people person, someone who cares about children and families and I think we can work with her.’ Not all politicians are like that.”
Reyes has been a longtime defender of children and families, promising in 2019 when she was re-elected to prioritize family and child care issues. She announced then that the theme of her second term would be Inclusion and Equity.
“We have to remember there are lots of people who are not being served,” Reyes said at Friday’s event. “Often it affects women and women of color more so, and we have to be cognizant of that and take care of the equity issues that affect us.”
Dr. Olenick spoke of the Alternative Payment program, which provides funding for families who earn below a certain threshold. With Reyes’ help, funding for the program in San Bernardino County was doubled.
“We had 10,000 families on the wait list in San Bernardino County that were eligible but we didn’t have funding for them,” Dr. Olenick shared. “This budget cycle, we got $64 million more for San Bernardino County families. To give you an idea of what that is, that’s more than the county of Los Angeles. With the $64 million we got, we will probably be able to enroll about 5,000 families, or 9,000 kids. People get on these waiting lists and wait and wait and wait, but now we have it. My challenge to you, Assemblymember, is we’ve got to get more (funding).”
Reyes told the audience she accepted Dr. Olenick’s challenge and that she’d continue fighting for her district and families across the State of California.
“This bill will take us through October of 2023, but we need to take it further than that. Parents should not be spending an exorbitant amount on family fees,” she said. “My parents always said ‘give back, because there will always be somebody who has a need.’ And because of the privilege we get, we can bring someone into the fold who wouldn’t be in the fold. That’s our responsibility, we’ve got to extend a hand to others.”