Sacramento – Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes’s (D-San Bernardino) bill AB 92 passed Assembly Education Committee with bipartisan support. This bill will make childcare more accessible to all families by creating a sliding scale for family fees, which are imposed on low-income families accessing subsidized childcare.
California is one of the most expensive states for parents who need childcare services. In Los Angeles County and statewide, the average two-parent working family spends around 20% of their annual income on childcare. There is broad consensus among childcare experts and economists that spending more than 10% of annual income on childcare places economic stress on low-income families.
“The cost of childcare in our state is prohibitive, especially for low-income families struggling to make ends meet,” said Assemblymember Reyes. “This is an issue of equity that especially affects women and women of color, who are more likely to leave their jobs in the absence of childcare services and who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.”
While there are a number of state and federally funded programs that help families pay for childcare, families accessing subsidized care must still pay family fees.
“The family fee structure in place is antiquated and needs to reflect the needs of today's families,” said Mary Ignatius, a Statewide Organizer for Parent Voices. “The fees make subsidized child care unaffordable and that's a problem we must collectively fix."
With limited disposable income, low-income families struggle to pay these fees and are forced to make difficult decisions about basic needs such as food, shelter, clothing, and keeping up with fee payments.
Micaela Mota, a Parent Voices Leader who is currently working and studying to become a school psychologist, and mother of two, said, "I was on the waiting list for nearly two years before I was able to access an emergency child care voucher as an essential worker. During COVID, all my household costs have gone up and now I have to decide if I pay my family fee, pay PG&E, or improve my internet connection for my older son's distance learning. The stress is overwhelming. If I can't afford child care, it puts my education and training as a school psychologist at risk. These kids need me now more than ever."
Families like Micaela Mota’s are at significant risk of losing their subsidized childcare which can, in turn, jeopardize their employment or education. This places them at greater risk of reliance on the state's other welfare programs and prevents families from rising out of poverty. The COVID-19 pandemic has only heightened the need for affordable childcare for low-income families and communities of color, who are a significant part of California’s essential workforce.
"Family fees are an example of a racist policy that has long forced Black and Brown families to compromise their children's well-being in order to provide for their basic needs,” said Lorie Furstenfeld of the Child Care Law Center. “When families have excellent, affordable child care, our communities become healthier and more vibrant, now and in the next generation."
According to the Child Care Resource Center, “It is critical to reform our family fee system so that it is designed to support families as they work to build their economic security and future.”
AB 92 (Reyes) will create a sliding scale for family fees that will alleviate the burden on low-income families struggling to pay for childcare and early childhood education services. By increasing the accessibility of childcare to low-income families, this bill will benefit the economic recovery of the state by helping parents remain in the workforce and achieve economic stability.