California Families Brace for Higher Child Care Fees Amid Looming Cut in Subsidies


Newsom said the bill’s cost was prohibitive, writing in his veto message for this bill and several others that state revenue is expected to decrease.

Advocates were critical, saying Newsom does not understand the struggle of families that need child care to work.

Newsom started his tenure as governor with promises to help families with child care costs and access. Since then, his administration has budgeted for more subsidized child care slots and has led an expansion of transitional kindergarten. Despite this, advocates say the state is still not doing enough for child care providers and struggling families with young children.

“There has been some progress made on child care, but the significant reform and expansion that the governor actually promised and signaled in his first budget address hasn’t been there,” said Chris Hoene, executive director of the California Budget and Policy Center.

He said the biggest issues that have gone unattended are the lack of child care workers and the low pay rate for those workers. Without these workers, parents struggle to find care, even if they are approved for a subsidy.

“If you are an individual with lower income and you are trying to access subsidized child care, the fees are a barrier,” Hoene said. “And if you can afford the fees, then the next barrier is finding a provider.”

The bill Newsom vetoed was popular in the Legislature, where it passed with no dissenting votes, and had strong support from parent and child care advocates. No opposition was filed against the bill, according to the Assembly analysis. That’s why Reyes and advocates plan to use the next eight months to try again through the budget process or another bill.

For Rosales, the child care fee waiver has given her and her husband a chance to catch up financially. With that $400 a month savings, she got caught up on utility bills and paid off a student loan. Most exciting for her: paying for football for her sons and folklorico dance lessons for her daughters and herself.

Learning the traditional Mexican dance was a childhood dream her family could never afford. But this month Rosales dropped the class for herself to start saving money for child care.

“I’m already stressing out about the $400 payment that is coming back next year and already trying to cut back on expenses,” she said. “It’s very upsetting. After football season I’m not going to enroll my boys in anything else.”

Ignatius, of Parent Voices, said eliminating the fees is critical for the survival of families already living paycheck to paycheck.

“Real cost pressures are what families are facing every single day,” she said. “Scraping together money for these fees instead of spending it on food, on housing, on activities for their children, for bills, for paying down debt — that’s financial pressure. What the state is experiencing pales in comparison.”

A Latina woman in her 30s looks at the camera while standing in front of a white house.
Micaela Mota received a $277 subsidized child care fee waiver from the state. With the waiver set to expire next year, she doesn’t know how she’ll make ends meet. (Marissa Leshnov/CalMatters)

Richmond mom Micaela Mota has used her $277 in monthly fee savings to pay student loans and PG&E bills and to enroll her son in baseball and swim lessons.

“Before that it was, ‘Do I pay PG&E or do I pay for child care?’ and if I don’t pay for child care, how am I able to work?” she said. “It’s this or that in order to move forward to succeed in life.”

A school psychologist, she said the fee waiver helped her finish her intern year and her graduate degree. She was also able to stop driving for Uber on Friday and Saturday nights and spent that time with her son instead.

“The governor could have been more graceful in what he could provide for us,” Mota said.

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