Photo Credit: Zaidee Stavely/EdSource
Playing doctor at Fresno Unified's Early Learning Center.
This article was updated on June 23 to show that subsidized child care for essential workers was extended.

Nurses, doctors, grocery store workers, police and other essential workers now have access to subsidized child care in California, regardless of their income.

Gov. Newsom issued an executive order on April 4 that makes it easier for preschools, family child care homes, school districts, after-school programs and others to provide child care for these essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

On April 10, Gov. Newsom announced the release of $50 million to pay for free child care for up to 20,000 essential workers, and another $50 million to reimburse child care providers for supplies for health and safety, such as gloves, masks, and cleaning supplies. The subsidized child care for essential workers was initially set to expire on June 30, but the 2020-21 budget legislation extends the vouchers for 90 days.

“There’s a strong need throughout the state. And I would say that it’s the place where we need to put our oars down,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the State Board of Education, last week during an online address with the governor about the state’s response to the pandemic.

If there is a surge of patients with the coronavirus, X-ray technologist Bill Smith, of Brentwood, in Contra Costa County, anticipates needing child care for his three children, one 7-year-old and two 11-year-olds.

“That’s when I think child care is going to become a crunch for us,” Smith said.

Smith works at a John Muir Outpatient Center in Brentwood. His wife, Andrea Starkel, is a nurse who cares for premature infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at John Muir Hospital in Walnut Creek. Their three children are all doing distance learning at home now that their elementary school closed.

Right now, Smith’s hours have been cut because only urgent patients can be seen. But he said the hospital anticipates a surge of patients with COVID-19 in about two weeks, in which case his hours would probably increase.

Normally, the children’s grandmother cares for them after school, when the parents’ shifts overlap. But now, they don’t want to ask her to help because she is elderly and therefore at higher risk of severe illness from the coronavirus. So they are relying on a high-school-age babysitter to care for the children.

“What I’m concerned about is if the babysitter is uncomfortable or her parents don’t want her to come, because of the risk of exposure because we are health care workers, or if any of us gets sick, or she gets sick,” Smith said.

Newsom’s executive order allows essential workers to access state-subsidized child care and preschool programs, regardless of their income, while schools are closed because of the coronavirus. Children in foster care or at risk of being neglected or abused will still have priority for subsidized care.

The order also allows after-school programs to operate during regular school hours, in schools and other locations, to care for school-age children of essential workers, and allows child care programs to use a new provision of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to feed children in their care.

Child care for essential workers is being offered in different ways in different cities and counties. In many counties, like Alameda, Los Angeles and San Diego, children’s agencies and school districts are directing essential workers to existing licensed child care centers and family child care homes that are still open and have space. Several do, with so many parents keeping their children home.

Some cities — San Francisco, Sacramento and Chico among them — are offering child care for the children of essential workers through their parks and recreation programs. Long Beach is trying another approach — pairing unemployed child care workers, including Long Beach Unified volunteers, with parents who are essential workers.

The California Department of Education and the California Department of Social Services both issued new guidelines for how to offer child care safely during the pandemic and how to prioritize children of essential workers, following the executive order. The California Department of Education has encouraged school districts to open school buildings or other facilities to offer child care when needed, and refer parents who need care to other agencies who can help them find it.

Both the Santa Clara County Office of Education and the Santa Barbara County Education Office are helping to coordinate child care for the children of health care workers, by pairing up hospitals with child care centers and other programs at city parks and recreation programs, school districts and other agencies like the YMCA and First 5. The school districts participating include Lompoc Unified School District, Hope School District and Santa Maria Bonita School District in Santa Barbara County, and Morgan Hill Unified School District in Santa Clara County.

“At this very stressful time, it’s so important that our emergency workers know that they can count on our public systems to support them,” said Santa Clara County Superintendent of Schools Mary Ann Dewan.

About 200 school-aged children of health care workers are being cared for in the Santa Clara county programs, Dewan said. She said there are other school districts in the county that are ready to open school doors for emergency child care, if needed.

“It’s not an easy thing to just pop up,” Dewan said. “It is quite challenging because we have to be able to navigate all of the safety precautions as well as be able to accurately determine who would be eligible for this service.”

Dewan welcomed the expansion of state-subsidized preschool and child care for children of essential workers, which was an obstacle to providing care for those families prior to Newsom’s executive order.

The order may have already led some other districts to begin offering child care. Los Angeles Unified superintendent Austin Beutner said on April 6 that the district “will soon be working together with the City of Los Angeles to help provide child care for children of hospital staff.”

Some school districts said they are not offering child care for essential workers because the need is not great in their area, or because they have not been contacted by other agencies requesting the use of their buildings. San Bernardino City Unified School District offered child care to enrolled students only during the first week it was closed, March 16-20, up until the district’s scheduled spring break. Spokeswoman Linda Bardere said that only about 48 students were participating, out of about 48,000.

Lodi Unified partnered with the city of Lodi to offer emergency child care, but no one has signed up yet.

“So far we have not had anyone sign up,” said Lodi City Manager Steve Schwabauer. “But hospitals are not hitting their high pressure points yet in our community. In fact we have a slight lull before the storm.”

EdSource's trusted, in-depth reporting has never mattered more.

With the coronavirus affecting every aspect of California's education, demand for EdSource's reporting has increased tremendously.

We can meet this demand, with help from readers like you.

From now through December 31, NewsMatch will match your one-time gift or your new monthly donation for 12 months.

Your contribution ensures that EdSource’s content continues to be available for free – without a paywall or ads.

Make your donation today to DOUBLE your impact.

Share Article

Comments (25)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * *

Comments Policy

We welcome your comments. All comments are moderated for civility, relevance and other considerations. Click here for EdSource's Comments Policy.

  1. Linda Aguilar 2 months ago2 months ago

    Zaidee, your article was so helpful in learning that there was an extended for essential workers back in June for California. I was able to get funded until October 2 as I am in the medical field as a essential worker. Had you heard if there will be another extended coming soon. Any help with information would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you very much.

  2. Diana Barrera 3 months ago3 months ago

    Is there any chance for an extension through next year for subsidized childcare?

    Replies

    • Zaidee Stavely 3 months ago3 months ago

      Hi Diana. As far as I know, the extension was only 90 days for essential workers who are not income-eligible. However, essential workers who are income-eligible (you can see the chart here) will have some priority for year-long subsidies, if they are available.

  3. Elizabeth 4 months ago4 months ago

    The subsidized child care in San Bernardino County has been extended for me until October. However, this time around, I'm required to pay a family fee of $624. It's a substantial amount but I'm still grateful that I don't have to pay 100% for child care. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that schools will be opened for in person education by then. If not, continuing to pay for child care will … Read More

    The subsidized child care in San Bernardino County has been extended for me until October. However, this time around, I’m required to pay a family fee of $624. It’s a substantial amount but I’m still grateful that I don’t have to pay 100% for child care. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that schools will be opened for in person education by then. If not, continuing to pay for child care will put my finances in significant jeopardy! Thank you Zaidee for all your help and guidance through this process. Please continue to keep us updated!

  4. Diana 5 months ago5 months ago

    Is the agency that was helping essential workers supposed to call parents or should we call the program to get re-enrolled? Do we have until July 15 to get re-enrolled?

  5. Linda Aguilar 5 months ago5 months ago

    The essential worker day care funding was not extended per the child resource center in California.

    I feel it should have, as being an essential worker, this extra funding helped all of us working in this capacity. So sad to hear this news. Per the article it’s stated it had been extended for 90 more days which would have covered July-September 2020.

    Replies

    • Zaidee Stavely 5 months ago5 months ago

      Hi Linda, The extension for 90 days was included in the 2020-21 state budget agreement between the Legislature and the governor. The resource and referral agencies should have information soon to be able to extend subsidies, but I imagine it might take a few days. If you lost your subsidy because it was slated to end June 30, you will have until July 15, 2020 to be re-enrolled, according to the legislation.

  6. Elizabeth 5 months ago5 months ago

    The subsidized child care expires 6/30/2020. However, the number of COVID-19 cases are increasing, rather than decreasing. I’m hoping that the subsidized child care funds with be extended to respond to this increased need for essential workers. Please let me know if there are new information regarding this issue. Thank you very much!

    Replies

    • Zaidee Stavely 5 months ago5 months ago

      The 2020 budget extends the subsidized child care for essential workers for another 90 days (approx. 3 months).

      • Zaidee Stavely 5 months ago5 months ago

        It also gives essential workers priority for year-long subsidies if they are income eligible, meaning they make less than 85% of the state median income. The income guidelines are here.

      • Linda Aguilar 5 months ago5 months ago

        I’m sorry where did you receive the information that this was funding was extended? I was just informed by the CRC that is was it was ending June 30.

        • Zaidee Stavely 5 months ago5 months ago

          Hi Linda, The extension for 90 days was included in the 2020-21 state budget agreement between the Legislature and the governor. The resource and referral agencies should have information soon to be able to extend subsidies, but I imagine it might take a few days. If you lost your subsidy because it was slated to end June 30, you will have until July 15, 2020 to be re-enrolled, under the legislation.

  7. Debora Renee Anderson 5 months ago5 months ago

    I’m a essential worker. I’m a home health caretaker. My clients are elderly people. I’ve been caring for them for 3 yrs. I’m also taking care of my grandsons ages 6,5,3. I don’t want to quit my job to care for them and go on unemployment. I enjoy what I do. I need assistance in childcare. Please help.

  8. Erica 5 months ago5 months ago

    No one has applied because they are not spreading the information. And, there is no info telling us where to go or how to apply. How does this article help essential workers?

  9. Verónica de la Hoya 6 months ago6 months ago

    I’m looking for a summer program for my 3 years old son. I’m essential worker.

  10. S Ortiz 7 months ago7 months ago

    Where is the help for us essential workers? I think that we are the only ones not getting the help we need with childcare, while the government is giving all the money to all unemployed people.

  11. Elizabeth 7 months ago7 months ago

    I called my local child care resource center. They are only offering subsidized child care based on income guidelines. I cannot find any information or location that offer subsidized childcare regardless of income. While this is good information, where is the subsidized childcare??????

    Replies

    • Khadijah P Tillman 7 months ago7 months ago

      Exactly. That is so frustrating. They expect you to use your entire check to pay for child care because school is closed.

  12. Cheryl Hayes 7 months ago7 months ago

    My niece is a front libe- first responder. She began experiencing the Covid19 symptoms. She feared the worse. She tested positive. She has two small children under 5. She needs child care assistance. The children will have to be w/a friend or family member. Does this program assist her financially? If not, if you have any resources to forward, I greatly appreciate it and will forward information. Thank you

  13. Christina Guerrero 8 months ago8 months ago

    Same as the others. Single working mom about to lose my job because of childcare. I am an essential worker.

    Replies

    • Latania Mackey 4 months ago4 months ago

      Yes, I am an essential worker too and in need of child care. While I work, she will be doing online class work and needs to be watched. If you know of any locations where my child can go from 6 am to 3 pm, that would be great.

  14. Brandy Scott 8 months ago8 months ago

    Single mother and essential worker looking for more information on subsidy childcare programs.

  15. Cheyenna 8 months ago8 months ago

    I am also a single mother preforming essential work, had to take a pay cut, and lost incentive bonuses. Please share more information! Thank you!

  16. Nisha 8 months ago8 months ago

    I am a single working mother and need of assistance for child care. I would like to get more information about this program