The child care industry has been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with nearly 40% of facilities in Los Angeles closing since stay-at-home orders were issued in March, according to local officials and PathwaysLA, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that provides child care resources for families.
A lack of child care concerns civic leaders such as Los Angeles City Councilman David Ryu, 4th District, and California Assemblywoman Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles), who called for more funding and continued support for the child care industry and more free child care services for essential workers. On June 22, Kamlager and Ryu’s Deputy Chief of Staff Adeena Bleich joined Jessie Salazar, executive director of Pathways LA, for a videoconference to highlight pressing needs facing the industry.
“An economy that does not include affordable and accessible child care is an unjust economy,” Ryu said. “This pandemic has only made matters worse, shutting down child care centers and pushing working families even further behind. Every essential worker in California should take advantage of the free child care that is currently available – and every level of government should work to protect and expand child care resources.”
“Lack of free and affordable access to child care is an economic justice issue,” said Kamlager, who represents the 54th Assembly District encompassing the Baldwin Hills, Crenshaw, Pico-Union, Mid-City, Culver City, Palms, Westwood and Windsor Hills communities. “We must remember single parents who work two jobs to make ends meet for their family. We must think about students who need child care so that they can finish school and have access to better-paying jobs. We must prioritize our essential workers who are parents and who are keeping us afloat in this pandemic. Accessible and reliable care is critical to keep California working and children learning.”
Uncertainty about the future is being felt at centers throughout the city, including the Rainbow Child Development Center in Koreatown. Operated by Executive Director Eunice Lee and Administrator Timothy Lee, the Rainbow Child Development Center is a preschool and child care center. When stay-at-home orders were issued in March, the school switched to online educational programs for preschoolers, which kept it in businesses.
“Because we were part of the California State Preschool Program, we received funding and we were able to offer distance learning even though we closed,” Timothy Lee said. “Schools without public funding are struggling. Without the state, it can be very hard to stay afloat. If we were private and depended on money from families, it would have been very hard for us.”
Although the Rainbow Child Development Center has been able to continue at-home learning, the future remains uncertain. The Lees plan to reopen in July. It is unclear whether sufficient funding for child care and preschool programs will be included in the next state budget because of cuts in many areas.
“Because we have been closed for so long, it is a little scary,” Lee added. “We hope the support from the state will continue.”
The Rainbow Child Development Center is affiliated with PathwaysLA, which provides resources to link families with child care centers and preschools. PathwaysLA serves Hollywood, the Melrose District, Hancock Park, Koreatown and the surrounding areas. Most of the people who receive help from the nonprofit are from low-income families or people of color, Salazar said.
“For too many, disenfranchisement begins at birth,” Salazar added. “It’s critical that we offer families from disadvantaged communities the high-quality child care they need, and that young children receive the corresponding lifelong benefits. During the current health crisis, we need to ensure that essential workers have access to child care, as well as remember that the child care industry itself is essential and needs government support to weather this storm.”
PathwaysLA has been helping essential workers connect with free child care during the pandemic. Some facilities that remain open have been able to provide the free services because of $100 million in state funding authorized by Gov. Gavin Newsom in April specifically earmarked for that purpose. Salazar worried about what will happen when that money runs out. He also urged government officials to reject cuts and support the child care industry.
“Since we have a lot of our vulnerable children in these sites, we want to make sure they are getting a quality program, therefore we need to make investments not only in sustaining and rebuilding the capacity, but also rebuilding the quality of child care,” Salazar said. “Our child care centers are a supporting anchor for families. Sometimes, families don’t have those extended support systems so child care becomes very critical.”
Salazar added that although there have been many closures, PathwaysLA can still help coordinate people with child care that is available. He encouraged them to call or visit pathwaysla.org.
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