Credit: Michael Collier/EdSource Today
Children play at a family child care home in Oakland.
Updated on March 23, 2020 to reflect the number of child care programs that have closed.

As schools and businesses close across California to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus, child care providers are calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom to provide emergency support to stay in business during the coronavirus pandemic.

Organizations representing both private child care centers and family child care providers, who run programs out of their homes, are calling for Newsom to provide emergency funding to pay sick leave to their assistants who fall ill or need to care for their own family members, and to purchase sanitation supplies to disinfect their homes or centers. These providers care primarily for children 0-5 years old, in addition to some school-age children, and in some cases receive subsidies for low-income families who qualify.

They are also asking for funding to hire additional child care assistants and substitutes to help take over for those who have to stay home, or so they can meet new requirements to watch smaller groups of children at a time and keep all groups separate.

In addition, they are asking for the state to compensate providers for children who receive subsidized care, even if they are absent because of the “shelter in place” requirements and other restrictions on their movements, and to provide benefits such as paid family leave and sick leave, unemployment insurance, workers compensation and extended disability for child care providers who would not normally qualify for them.

Under the statewide order to shelter in place, child care centers, family child care homes and babysitters who come to families’ homes can continue to operate, for children of parents working in health care, grocery stores and other essential services. Many still remain open. As of Friday, March 20, 3,305 child care centers and family child care homes had closed statewide, out of about 40,000 total programs, according to the California Child Care Resource and Referral Network, a network of agencies that support child care providers and help families find child care.

The petitions were sent by Child Care Providers United, which represents licensed family child care providers who run programs out of their homes, and Californians for Quality Early Learning, which is a nonprofit membership organization that provides training and support for child care providers. Child Care Providers United is the first organization representing family child care providers in the state to file for a union election, after a bill passed last year, AB 378, gave these workers the right to collectively bargain for better conditions and state subsidies.

“We’re treated like the stepchild, but yet we’re on the front lines,” said Nancy Harvey, who runs Li’l Nancy’s Primary Schoolhouse out of her home in West Oakland. “We’re helping these families continue to work and keep up their income.”

A bill that the Legislature passed Monday, SB 117,which ensures funding for K-12 school districts during school closures, will allow child care centers and family child care homes to continue to receive subsidies from the state for low-income children if their businesses close due to an executive order in response to the pandemic. The bill was immediately signed by Newsom.

National child care advocacy organizations are also calling on Congress to provide emergency funding to help early learning programs stay in business. They say the outbreak is exposing many of the weaknesses that already exist in the child care system — many child care providers do not have paid sick leave, they struggle to find substitutes, and often if children do not attend a program, providers do not get paid.

“They are already operating on razor-thin margins, and this could be the thing that pushes them out of business,” said Catherine White, director of child care and early learning at the National Women’s Law Center, one of the organizations that signed on to a letter to Congress.

Of the 11 infants and preschoolers enrolled in Li’l Nancy’s Primary Schoolhouse, only four are still attending. Harvey said they include the child of a doctor and the child of a school janitor, who is working to clean and disinfect a school.

Harvey has cut the number of assistants who help her every day from four to two, on a rotating schedule. She said parents already paid for this month of child care, but she and other providers are worried about how to pay expenses if the outbreak continues into April or beyond.

“There’s some very serious concerns going forward because if these parents don’t bring the children back in April, I can’t afford to continue to pay my staff and keep my doors open,” Harvey said.

Advocates say child care is a crucial service during a public health crisis like this one, especially because health professionals like nurses and doctors need child care in order to go to work and care for those who are stricken with COVID-19.

“Even if a large number of industries shut down, child care will still be needed for those folks. We cannot underscore enough how much it is needed to keep people healthy and safe,” White said.

A disproportionate number of family child care providers nationwide are remaining open, either because local governments have asked them to do so, or because of the needs of parents or the providers themselves, said Christie Balka, policy director of All Our Kin, an organization based in New Haven, Connecticut that provides training and advocacy for child care providers. In California, family child care providers often serve lower-income parents and those who need flexible schedules.

“We don’t want any child care provider or, frankly, any family, to feel like they have to choose between following health recommendations and family economic security,” Balka said.

The California Department of Social Services, which oversees licenses for child care and preschool, is leaving the decision of whether to close or stay open up to individual providers, and is asking providers to refer to local public health ordinances and to the guidance for schools from the California Department of Public Health. Child Care Aware of America, a national organization that works with state and local agencies that support providers, is recommending that if a school district has closed because of the virus, child care programs located in that district should also close, except for those that provide care for essential emergency and health care personnel. In the counties that have ordered residents to “shelter in place,” child care is considered an essential service, if it is for the children of health care workers and others who still have to work outside the home during the crisis. However, even under those circumstances, providers must care for groups of no more than 12 children and adhere to other health and safety guidelines.

Ana Andrade decided to close The Wolfpack Child Care, which she runs out of her home in San Rafael, in Marin County, north of San Francisco, on Friday, after receiving guidelines from the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services. She’s worried, though, about whether she’ll be able to open back up after the crisis is over.

“I don’t know yet from the families that I have which ones will be affected economically,” Andrade said.

Many parents who still have to work have had to scramble to find child care. Sophia Osotio, of Novato, north of San Francisco, still has to go to work as a barista in a hotel from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. When her 9-year-old daughter’s school and the child care center where she attends after school both closed, Osotio had to scramble to find a babysitter.

“I’m worried about how long this will last, and being that I’m still working, I’m worried about my health,” Osotio said. “And how long will my babysitter stay healthy? What if something happens to her? If she got sick, then what would I do?”

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  1. Bridget Elliott 4 months ago4 months ago

    With parents and children traveling are there any restrictions or quarantines?. I have a family going to arizona next week…..can they come right back to my childcare I have a 86 year old mother working with me?

    Replies

    • Zaidee Stavely 4 months ago4 months ago

      Hi Bridget, I haven’t seen any restrictions on that, but I recommend contacting your local resource and referral agency or the Child Care Law Center to ask about that.

  2. Damarie 7 months ago7 months ago

    I’m concerned for the infants..also children don’t understand the 6 ft. Precautions. Child-staff ratios need to be looked into. Also for state funded programs, if the parents are not working nor going to school, child or children should not be allowed to come. Should be at home with parents.

  3. Ann marie crowley 7 months ago7 months ago

    I have an MS degree in nursing and worked in acute care for 30 years, mostly in the OR. Would be willing to help.

  4. Jordana Ferreira 7 months ago7 months ago

    Is the DOE in California providing any emergency care for k-elementary school aged kids, or are the efforts more focused on getting child care providers through the department of social services to provide that?

  5. Carlos 7 months ago7 months ago

    My 4 year old’s preschool to 8th grade is shut down yet they expect us to pay the tuition for the rest of the semester (at a discounted rate, 80% our obligation). My wife has to now stay home to take care of my preschooler. We’ve a contract but feel like we’re receiving no services for the $600 a month. There’s talk of online learning but not sure how much a 4 … Read More

    My 4 year old’s preschool to 8th grade is shut down yet they expect us to pay the tuition for the rest of the semester (at a discounted rate, 80% our obligation). My wife has to now stay home to take care of my preschooler. We’ve a contract but feel like we’re receiving no services for the $600 a month. There’s talk of online learning but not sure how much a 4 year old will learn online.

    Anyone have any ideas of what to do? Pay for teachers that are at home or not pay and incur their wrath? Thanks!

    Replies

    • Jerri 7 months ago7 months ago

      Most day care providers have many costs that don't stop or are annual that must be spread out throughout the year. Especially center-based programs: rent, utilities, insurance to cover items and children, workers compensation, annual license renewals, annual fire inspections, annual fire extinguisher inspections, taxes, phone, internet. These are expenses that should not lapse or it costs you more. When we are closed, the bills don't stop. I am hoping this helps provide a better … Read More

      Most day care providers have many costs that don’t stop or are annual that must be spread out throughout the year. Especially center-based programs: rent, utilities, insurance to cover items and children, workers compensation, annual license renewals, annual fire inspections, annual fire extinguisher inspections, taxes, phone, internet. These are expenses that should not lapse or it costs you more. When we are closed, the bills don’t stop. I am hoping this helps provide a better understanding. I can only speak on my experience with center-based program.

  6. Amy Warren 7 months ago7 months ago

    I am very concerned as a small business owner. We do not have the ability to receive unemployment, even if we remain open for the first responders that leaves us with about 10-12 children who are staying at home with their parents. In the very near future, these parents will be pulling their children from our programs. We are an essential part of the economic welfare of our country and we are exposing ourselves daily to … Read More

    I am very concerned as a small business owner. We do not have the ability to receive unemployment, even if we remain open for the first responders that leaves us with about 10-12 children who are staying at home with their parents. In the very near future, these parents will be pulling their children from our programs.

    We are an essential part of the economic welfare of our country and we are exposing ourselves daily to help others. The government must do something to keep us in business!

  7. Jennifer Mckay 7 months ago7 months ago

    After 17 years in business, I might have to go out of business because all of my clients are staying home or out of work and don’t need my services anymore!

  8. Vernetta 7 months ago7 months ago

    Yes, I have been open for my families who are on the front lines medical staff and county employees, utilities workers. My families who have subsidized state payments have been on shelter in place, but how will I cover expenses for those days a child didn’t come to Day Care and my extra expenses and no income coming in?

  9. Rosita Martinez 7 months ago7 months ago

    We are in San Diego and because there is a loophole in the addendum that states “to the extent possible,” children should stay in a group of 10 or less and not go from group to group. Our Corporate Office is cutting hours and we’re having staff go home when we could clearly staff according to the guidelines. Putting child and staff at risk that are willing to work in their center.

  10. Kalin splan 7 months ago7 months ago

    I’m in full understanding that healthcare providers and frontline emergency response personal need daycare services. However, we as daycare workers also have families, children out of school, elderly people at home, we definitely do not get paid enough nor do we get paid family leave for the times we do need to take off to be home when sick or to care for our families. I really want Governor Newsom to compensate our facilities so … Read More

    I’m in full understanding that healthcare providers and frontline emergency response personal need daycare services. However, we as daycare workers also have families, children out of school, elderly people at home, we definitely do not get paid enough nor do we get paid family leave for the times we do need to take off to be home when sick or to care for our families. I really want Governor Newsom to compensate our facilities so ya that need to be home right now get the financial help we deserve until this crisis is over. Support your daycare providers. They matter, too.

  11. Tesha Stpne 7 months ago7 months ago

    I understand some child care providers are being required to work for frontline people, ie doctors, police etc. but those persons are being paid at a much high pay than child care providers. Most of us barely make minimum wages. So why should we be asked to put ourselves and our own families at risk?

  12. Elianna campos 7 months ago7 months ago

    I am in Contra Costa County, I am still open to my essential working parents. It’s very scary and worrisome for all of us – our older folks, our colleagues in this field. I hope that this union helps us put some benefits in perspective for all of us, as we do a very important role in the lives of children who are our future. We are in dire need of many supplies … Read More

    I am in Contra Costa County, I am still open to my essential working parents. It’s very scary and worrisome for all of us – our older folks, our colleagues in this field. I hope that this union helps us put some benefits in perspective for all of us, as we do a very important role in the lives of children who are our future. We are in dire need of many supplies that are scarce in the stores. The stores remain open but they have not restocked and from the looks of it, they don’t look like they will restock anytime soon.

  13. Cindi Mote 7 months ago7 months ago

    Thank you! for your statements. I have been so busy with the day to day operations of keeping our center open for those that need our services. It is a strain on our financial wellbeing when families that are working from home and still getting paid but not paying us.