California Senate leaders introduced a new plan Wednesday designed to make child care more affordable for families that are struggling financially.
The Raising Child Care Quality and Accessibility Act, co-authored by Senate president Kevin de Leon and Assembly speaker Toni Atkins, would expand payment vouchers for low-income families that need child care. Due to budgeting gaps, funding for child care and preschool in the state has been cut by 40 percent since 2007-2008. Legislators said less than 10 percent of eligible infants and toddlers are receiving subsidized care.
de Leon said the plan would benefit all Californians, either directly or indirectly.
"When we provide the resources for these women as a state – that means we have women that are contributing to the coffers of the state of California, because they're working and that's what it's all about," de Leon said. "It's about economic growth for the state of California."
A number of parents said child care was simply out of reach. Dana Bradford, mother of two young girls, said her husband quit his job to care for their daughters while she goes to work as a speech pathologist.
"I can't afford to give them my entire check," Bradford said. "Definitely having dad at home has been the best thing, even though it's hard to live on one paycheck."
The topic of affordable child care hit a nerve on social media. By mid-afternoon, 150 News10 viewers had shared their thoughts on Facebook, with many complaining that pricey child care was a drain on their finances.
"My childcare costs more than my mortgage! I have a 4 year old and twin 17 month olds in daycare as my husband and I both work," one mother wrote.
Another chimed in: "We paid almost $10,000 last year for our son to go to daycare 2 days a week. We have another child on the way and are in the process of re-financing our home so that we can afford for our second child to go to the same day care."
The child care act would also extend collective bargaining to family child care providers. Legislators said there are 33,000 licensed providers in California, most of whom are women of color. The typical workweek lasts more than 50 hours, and wages are often below minimum wage.
Gayle Chappell, who has run the Treasures and More day care out of her home for more than 30 years, said she charges parents $800 per month. She said she does it because she loves children -- not for the financial gain.
"You have to do your supplies, your food, your CPR classes, your day care insurance, your registration ... and we probably make $3 to $4 an hour doing this business," Chappell explained.
While the need for affordable child care strikes a chord with many parents, more help from the government is likely still a long way off. The actual bill won't be introduced until later this month, and an aide for de Leon said they are still working on how many new vouchers would be available, and what that would cost.
Once introduced, the bill will be heard in committee this spring, and would be voted on no earlier than May or June.