First 5 Response to May Budget Revision: Child Care is Critical to Making California Healthy Again

ALAMEDA, CA (May 14, 2020) – Governor Newsom and legislative leaders face tough decisions to address the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the health of California’s people and its economy. While the task is undeniably difficult, child care must be prioritized to make California healthy again, said First 5 Association, First 5 California and First 5 LA after the release of the governor’s May Revision to the State Budget today.

Child care is necessary for economic recovery, and providers were already stretched thin before COVID-19. The proposed budget cuts to the child care system will devastate that system at a time when child care is needed the most. Much of the state’s child care capacity is not operating, and many facilities are at risk of never opening again. All efforts must be made to support child care providers, workers, and the families who depend on them.

“As the Governor made clear in his executive order, child care workers are essential workers, because they keep other people on the job, including medical professionals, grocery clerks, police, and other critical first responders,” said Kim Belshé, executive director of First 5 LA.. “More than half of LA County’s licensed child care sites have closed, limiting the ability of essential workers to continue keeping us safe. Solutions that prioritize our youngest residents, especially access to quality child care, are critical to re-opening our economy and getting Californians back to work. As we address these immediate needs, we will continue to focus on making our early learning system work better for young children and their families. We are committed to working in partnership with the governor and legislative leaders as we move forward in what will be our collective recovery effort.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a light on inequities in child care and early learning opportunities for all children, as well as inequities in who can and can’t protect their health by working from home. In light of this, we are glad to see the revised budget maintains the governor’s commitment to ensuring all families can access paid family leave (PFL), by including expansion of job protection for any worker eligible for PFL, and $1 million assistance to support small businesses. Indeed, the state’s shelter-in-place order has highlighted the fundamental nature of strong families and households to Californians’ health and wellbeing. Sadly, child abuse and domestic violence cases typically spike during times of stress and hardship, which can have long-lasting effects. The budget’s proposed cuts to home visiting at this time are worrisome. Our state must make every possible effort to prevent family violence by continuing to support home visiting and other family strengthening programs. Home visiting also makes financial sense, yielding a $6 return for every $1 invested.

“We know this is an economically devastating time, and a difficult time for families,” said Kim Goll, president of First 5 Association. “First 5s are working harder than ever to serve families and our communities across the state. Families need support more than ever before.”

Basic needs related to food, housing and income security are critical to helping families maintain some level of resiliency, and we applaud the state for its emergency funding in these areas. We also need to ensure we learn from the Great Recession and maintain the two-generational, prevention funding that will support families and help pull the economy out of recession.

‘The governor and legislative leaders understand the crucial decisions that must be made to protect our early learning and care, health, and safety-net programs,” said Camille Maben, executive director of First 5 California. “California has shown itself to be a leader in the response to this public health disaster. The state must take bold steps to make California healthy again by first focusing on the essential need of child care, and continuing its progress on comprehensive approaches to child wellbeing. We want to work with the governor and legislative leaders to shape the future. And it starts with prioritizing young children in policy and budget decisions.”