Child care subsidies for low-income and at-risk children will not be cut under the 2020-21 California budget agreement reached by the Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom this week.
Newsom had originally proposed to cut the payments for subsidized child care providers by 10%.
“It’s absolutely wonderful that these cuts were rejected,” said Keisha Nzewi, director of public policy for the California Child Care Resource and Referral Network, made up of agencies in every county that help parents find child care and help providers get training and licensing.“To a lot of providers that I talked to, they felt like a 10 % cut would mean they would have to cut their assistant or they wouldn’t be able to pay their mortgage or their rent. Just the thought of that was a lot to carry during this time.”
The budget still slashes major investments made in last year’s budget that would have expanded state-subsidized preschool to 10,000 more children, built new preschool and child care facilities and increased training for early childhood teachers. Also gone is a plan to create a new department for early learning and care that would oversee all child care programs.
The cuts are an attempt to balance the budget, since the state is projecting a large drop in income and sales tax revenue and more expenses due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The new budget also brings good news for essential workers and some child care providers affected by the coronavirus. The Legislature and governor are extending free child care for essential workers for 90 days, with federal funding from the CARES Act. In addition, those workers will get priority for available year-long subsidized slots, if they meet the income requirement. Families qualify if their income is less than 85% of the state median income, or $84,822 for a family of four.
Child care providers who receive subsidies for low-income children will be able to continue to receive those subsidies for another year, even if the children are absent or parents choose not to send their children because of Covid-19.
“To be able to have that type of stability and know what kind of income they will have each month will also go a long way to make sure more providers are able to stay in business through the crisis,” said Nzewi.
If Congress passes another federal aid bill, the HEROES act, including funding for child care, California plans to spend $150 million of that on additional subsidized child care for about 15,000 more children, and $150 million toward helping child care providers reopen and pay for additional supplies and staff to meet health and safety guidelines.
Assemblywoman Monique Limón (D — Santa Barbara), vice chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus, celebrated the agreement.
“The pandemic and economic crisis reveal not just an impact on working parents, but in particular to women in California, who often take the lead with child care responsibilities,” Limón said. “This budget deal helps all working parents but also focuses on not leaving women behind.”
Several leading organizations that advocate for more quality early education also praised the budget agreement. “The state’s commitment to protecting the child care infrastructure is a key step to enabling child care providers to address the ongoing impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on the economic well-being of families and the development and mental health of our youngest children,” said Scott Moore, CEO of Kidango, a nonprofit organization that runs more than 50 child care centers in the San Francisco Bay Area, in a press release.