Shoring up child care through Prop F will unlock SF’s post-COVID economy
By Akil Fernando
Children’s Council Associate Board Member
Over the past few months, it’s become abundantly clear that child care is the bridge that enables working parents to return to their jobs and the re-opening of our communities and economies. Without the infrastructure to provide quality, accessible child care for families – especially working mothers – California will experience prolonged downstream economic effects of the COVID pandemic.
As an Associate Board member at Children’s Council of San Francisco, I’ve seen firsthand the difficulties faced by both families and child care providers during this pandemic.
I have a vested interest in early education: my mother is a child care provider in Toronto. Early educators like my mother have carried a huge burden during this pandemic. Like the vast majority of San Francisco child care sites, my mom’s business was forced to close in mid-March, due to COVID-19.
By early April, San Francisco fast-tracked emergency funding so that the children of essential workers could receive care. But for the better part of two and a half months, 85% of our city’s child care programs were closed.
While many child care programs reopened in June, because of strict COVID guidelines and expensive safety and cleaning protocols, they are operating at 50% of their typical capacity at 150% of the cost. For many early educators who operate on razor-thin profit margins even during normal times, this is simply not feasible.
Many early education programs remain shuttered: teachers are left unpaid and providers continue to scramble for government loans. Across the nation, child care programs are hurting and don’t have a financial safety net to survive the coming months without significant government and private support.
We’ve seen this movie before, but sadly, it was probably less dire: the 2008 recession was an illustration of how critical yet fragile our country’s child care infrastructure is. Laid-off parents needed child care so they could look for jobs and reenter the work force. Government subsidies eventually dried up, further displacing children and depriving child care providers of critical financial support.
From December 2007 to June 2009, women lost 2.4 million jobs while their unemployment rate increased from 4.9% to 8.5%.* In the Bay Area, between 10-40% of home-based child care businesses closed permanently.
With that being said, our child care system has slowly recovered since 2008. A combination of increased demand and consistent government funding over the last decade has created a market that is larger than ever and one that has yet to be tested – until now.
In April, Governor Newsom allocated $50 million for short-term child care vouchers for essential workers and another $50 million for cleaning supplies for child care sites. Then, following weeks of intense lobbying by child care advocates, the early education field in California narrowly avoided devastating budget cuts in Newsom’s final 20/21 budget. Still, our state and local child care infrastructure is hanging on by a thread.
This November, we will be faced with an unprecedented election that will impact our communities for generations to come. One of the most important ballot items for San Franciscans is Proposition F, a local ballot measure that:
- Unlocks over $500 million in early care & education funds from “Baby Prop C” (passed by voters in June 2018). Children, families and early educators in San Francisco desperately need these funds.
- Decreases taxes on small businesses.
- Reduces business registration fees for businesses with $1 million or less in San Francisco gross receipts.
With so many state and local initiatives on the November ballot, it’s imperative that we get the word out about Prop F. Be a child care champion – sign up today to join Children Council, Parent Voices and other early care advocates for a Prop F phone banking session!
As we slowly emerge from COVID, rebuilding a structurally sound child care system will be the key to reopening our communities and economies today, as well as supporting the workforce of tomorrow. It’s imperative that we stand up for our community’s children, families and early educators by supporting Prop F.
*Source: Pew Research Center, pewsocialtrends.org