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Omicron enthusiastically rewinds California childcare providers from COVID



Elizabeth Aguilera


Child care providers were already struggling to meet demand even before the Omicron variant of COVID hit California. That is, I shut down and stuck parents whose work depends on their ability to find child care.

One day in San Diego County last week, only three of the 22 sites operated by Educational Enrichment Systems could be opened, said Celine Krimston, vice president of the company. The rest were temporarily closed due to positive COVID cases or exposure among staff or children.

Chula Vista’s Miren Algorri was forced to close her home care business for eight days after being tested positive in early January. An infected child in San Francisco urged Pyrena Hui to shut her down for 10 days for her quarantine. And in Hemet, Angela Rodriguez spent all her savings to keep her home child care open through Omicron.

Elena Montoya of the Child Care Employment Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley said: “The number of cases of COVID is increasing and staff are calling due to illness. It is becoming increasingly difficult for providers to keep classrooms and doors open, affecting parents who are dependent on care. Is exerting. “

In California, about 117,000 childcare teachers help about 3 million children between the ages of 0 and 5.

California Chamber of Commerce I wrote a letter To lawmakers this week to approve additional spending on parenting.

“A robust, high-quality, affordable childcare network is not only essential for the growth of young children, but also for millions of working parents,” said Ashley, a chamber of commerce spokesman. Hoffman writes.

Nationally, 40% of adults in households with children report that their children have been unable to participate in childcare in the last four weeks due to safety concerns, according to the US Census Bureau. Home pulse surveyTaken from December 29th to January 10th.

“Child care workers continue to work throughout the pandemic and work with a group of children who are too young to be vaccinated, despite the risks and fears of their health,” Montoya said. “We have depended on childcare because people need to work and the economy works.”

Providers are facing high employee turnover rates

Last summer, a center at the University of California, Berkeley discovered that more than half of Child Care programs had dismissed or dismissed staff. It was also found that 62% of nursery centers have staff who are not working due to health risks, and 48% are not working because they are caring for their children.

“The pandemic has blown up and exacerbated the challenges of child care systems,” said Lauren Hogan of National Early Childhood Education.

Childcare experts and advocates say the pandemic has exacerbated the already difficult childcare situation in California. They point out labor shortages, low wages, and lack of enough slots for children in need of childcare. Today, with the proliferation of pandemics and omicrons, these problems are exacerbated.

“It’s an invisible workforce,” said Mary Ignatius, state-wide organizer of Parent Voices. “They incredibly love (and) raise people in our lives. They are the second mother and second father of our children so that we can work. But we can’t give them love. “The Median wages The amount of childcare workers in California in 2019 was $ 13.43. For younger children, wages are lower — for infants and younger children, the percentage of mandatory staffing is higher.

Low wages have led to higher turnover rates across the pandemic. This is a problem that exploded at Omicron.

“We think it’s a labor problem, but it’s also difficult for children,” Hogan said. “The same goes for transitions, children with constant churn and turnover (harm), and long-term quality.”

According to a Barclays Center survey, California has seen an 8% decline in childcare workers. September US Treasury Report The national turnover rate for childcare workers is estimated to be 26-40% of the total workforce each year, before the Omicron variant.

Omicron: From bad to bad

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Rodriguez, a provider of the city of Hemet in Riverside County, has had a hard time maintaining the business he runs with his husband. When the key worker needed to keep the caregiver open longer, Rodriguez hired another to make it possible, but then the new hire later quit. Even before Omicron hit, Rodriguez said she was forced to turn to her daughter and ask for her help.

“I told the kids,’Sorry, some of you will have to quit,'” said Rodriguez, whose daughters all had a full-time job. “‘If we don’t quit our job, we’ll all be dirty and homeless. We have no choice.'”

As a result, three of their daughters in their twenties quit their jobs as Amazon drivers, assistants in specialized veterinary offices, and Wingstop managers, shifting to their mother’s childcare business.

A year later, shortly before the surge, Rodriguez told her daughters to look for another job.

“I told them,’Our savings are almost gone, you need to find a job,'” Rodriguez said. “It may not have been a good decision to quit them, but my heart was on my parents. I didn’t expect it to be two years from now.”

Now that Omicron was rampant in California, she almost returned to daytime hours to reduce the number of children taking care of her. She said she turned her back on dozens of families.

Then, in January, Rodriguez and her husband became infected with COVID-19 and had to be closed for the first time for 10 days.

“We are exhausted and my kids are doing other things now,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve survived all the savings. We were going to buy a second house, but now it’s back to what it was before. Everything needs to be rebuilt.”

She hasn’t found a new worker yet, but her uncle who helped her child was looking for a job. He is currently undergoing CPR training and is undergoing a background check so that he can take care of his child over the weekend.

Low wages are a big problem

77% of California child care providers say wages are a major hiring challenge. According to the survey According to the National Early Childhood Education Association last summer. 63% of educators say that low wages are most often the reason for the continued lack of benefits and burnout.

Almost half of child care providers say they are considering ending the program or ending their family’s child care by the end of next year. That number rises to 64% for minority-owned businesses.

Restaurant jobs and retail jobs are childcare competitors, and they seem to win.

“In many cases, you can make more money with Target and Starbucks,” Montoya said. “We can’t blame people for quitting these jobs for better wages and health insurance. We can’t stabilize the system until we’re compensated in a way that’s appropriate for the workforce.”

Recruitment challenges are nothing new to Crimston in San Diego County.

“I’ve been in the field since 1984 and have always had staffing issues,” says Crimston. “The problem is always because of the wages we can’t pay the staff, and COVID just threw petrol into it.”

At her center, teaching assistant wages range from the minimum wage to $ 19 per hour. Teachers earn between $ 19 and $ 25 per hour, depending on their experience and education.

During the pandemic, trying to find a worker was even more difficult. Crimston said there weren’t more candidates in the job interview than ever before — and these were in Zoom.

Quarantine creates a strict feedback loop

In San Francisco, Pyrena Hui and Oscar Tang run More Than Education Family Child Care, with one employee paying more than $ 16.32 per hour, the local minimum hour. They say they also sometimes offer bonuses.

Throughout the pandemic, Hui and Tan carefully followed all public health protocols regarding masks, social distance, class size, and disinfection. They never had to close until Omicron surged.

Then, in early January, the child I was caring for became ill.

“I was really (stressed) because this is the first case of our childcare,” Hui said.

The nursery center was closed for 10 days while Hui, Tan and his employees were quarantined. Hui and Tang paid their assistants throughout the quarantine.

Still, it was a big deal for the couple who gave birth to their baby in April and were afraid to lose their home in 2020.

Hui is also Chairman and China Leader of the Family Child Care Association in San Francisco. She has a network of 250 Chinese child care providers and said in the last two weeks she has heard one after another cases of providers dealing with positive cases among children and staff.

“Covid Days” provides some peace of mind

The state is providing some support to child care providers acquired by Child Care Provider United.The The union negotiated the first contract In last year’s states, many deal directly with support for COVID issues.

The state is the largest for those who care for state-sponsored children 16th Closed by COVID. But now, providers are worried that those days will run out at the end of June’s fiscal year if Congress doesn’t extend benefits.

Chula Vista’s child care provider, Algorri, was infected with COVID in early January and had to close its business for eight days. She would have had to close long ago without additional state reimbursement for COVID inactivity, and benefits that fought against other unions such as supplementary income and payments based on registration rather than attendance. Said.

“This wasn’t a business where you make a lot of money, so there was no way I couldn’t keep hiring an assistant … to use on a rainy day,” she said. “I would have had to close my business.”

CalMatters is a non-profit news room dedicated to explaining California’s politics and policies.




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