Along with gas, groceries and rent, the costs for child care continues to rise with infant care, in particular, now surpassing in California the cost of state college tuition. Reliable child care can make the difference between a parent working or being unemployed, but many families don’t know help is available. We owe it to our friends, family, neighbors and community to spread the word about subsidized child care.
According to California Budget & Policy Center data, roughly 2 million children were eligible for subsidized child care in 2019 but just one out of every nine eligible children were actually enrolled in full-time subsidized care programs. For many young families, financial assistance with paying for care has been difficult to obtain. Child Care Resource Center (CCRC) and other resource and referral agencies have routinely distributed some funding to families who aren’t involved with the welfare system, but the aid available has never been enough to support the high volume of families languishing on the waiting list. Though funds have historically been limited, many families who would be prioritized due to their lower income haven’t known they are eligible for assistance.
During the pandemic, it became inarguably clear that child care is a crucial component to the economy because it supports the state’s essential workers. In the state budgets of 2021 and 2022, significant increases in funding have been allotted for the California Alternative Payment program. This program, which is utilized nationwide, provides subsidized funding for child care, either decreasing or eliminating altogether the cost for eligible families. CCRC has received this year almost three times the amount of funding that was trickling in two years ago. This means more families than ever now have an opportunity to enroll their children in care.
With the infusion of at least $160 million for Alternative Payments, about 25,000 families can apply for assistance with the expense of their child care. Those on the wait list have already been processed and addressed, so there is a capacity for 25,000 new southern California families who may not know help is available to them.
Though eligibility depends on a number of factors, generally a family of three with a household income under $82,102 meets the income requirement for assistance. Likewise, a family of four with an income of up to $95,289 is eligible. California’s governor signed legislation last year that eliminates through 2023 the fees for any eligible family enrolled through the program, so the program makes child care more accessible now than ever before.
Child care at reduced to no cost can be a game changer for families struggling to get by. When families have access to child care, they have the ability to work and go to school. That means more people contributing to our economy, improving their household income and conditions, and uplifting our community. Studies by the U.S. Labor Department show that women are the ones who most often lose out on career opportunities due to unreliable or unaffordable child care. Expanding access to this essential service helps women advance in the workforce. Given that 99 percent of CCRC families surveyed stated they were either able to accept a job or keep their job because of their child care, it’s evident that child care is not just a family support but a business support as well. But again, many families who have either given up hope for financial support after lengthy holds on the wait list or others who simply aren’t aware of this aid are missing out on lifechanging support.
Through Alternative Payments, care is available any hour of the day, weekends, and as needed. The application takes less than three minutes to complete and asks simple questions. Families get to choose the setting and child care provider who meets their specific needs, including a licensed center or Family Child Care Home or a family member, friend or neighbor for in-home care.
For 45 years, CCRC has made it our mission to strengthen children, families, and community. The agency is highly experienced in administering the Alternative Payments program, using funds to support the greatest number of families with their child care needs. By affording child care to working parents and caregivers supports, our community is stronger. Anyone interested in learning more or getting started with the income verification process should contact CCRC by phone (818-717-1000) or simply visit the website.
About the author: Dr. Michael Olenick has been the President and CEO for CCRC since 2003. He oversees all programs, projects, and services provided to over 50,000 children and families each month in a service area spanning 22,500 square miles. He is responsible for managing 1,000 staff and a $500 million budget. For more than three decades, Michael has served on numerous boards and committees at the county, state and national level. He is a past president of both Child Care Aware of America and the California Child Care Resource & Referral Network (CCRRN). He was a Governor’s appointee to the California State Advisory Council on Early Learning and Care and an appointee on the Speaker of the Assembly’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Early Childhood Education. Michael has been the chair of the Child Care Alliance for two years and serves on CA Child Welfare Commission in addition to serving on the Board of Directors of Zero to Three, the nation’s premier voice for babies.