Measure C: Oakland must fully fund child care now!

Victory-Is-Ours-Alameda-County-will-implement-Measure-C-by-@Parent_Voices-0321-1400x788, Measure C: Oakland must fully fund child care now!, Local News & Views
Last week in March, Measure C hit a huge milestone – the Alameda County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to approve the measure, pushing forward a small sales tax that will bring an estimated $150 million a year to fund child care and pediatric health care. This is a giant step forward in securing the funding Oakland and Alameda need for a thriving child care system! – Photo: @Parent_Voices

by Clarissa Doutherd, Parent Voices Action

“In 2016, my son was born, and I was put on the waitlist for child care subsidies. This September, my son turns 5 and I am still on the waitlist,” stated Noni Galloway last week as she testified in front of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, urging them to collect funds as directed by voter-approved Measure C. 

The historic community-driven win establishes a 0.5 percent increase in the county sales tax to greatly expand child care services for thousands of families and support independent child care providers by helping pay $15 per hour livable wages for their workers. 

“Last March when I lost my child care due to COVID-19, I called my local resource and referral agency to check my status on the waitlist. I was told they have no money, so when they get funding and get to my name on the list, I will be contacted,” stated Galloway, who volunteered on the Measure C campaign.

Along with other parents, child care and healthcare advocates, Galloway told Alameda County supervisors to begin collecting the voter-approved funds for children in need – proving, once again, that when community members organize, they win. 

Despite the measure getting more than 64 percent of the vote in the March 2020 primary election, county supervisors had declined to start collecting the estimated $150 million in annual proceeds last July after the Alameda County Taxpayers Association filed a lawsuit. The anti-tax group claims the measure required a two-thirds supermajority for passage. 

Today, the community celebrates last week’s vote by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. Their action clears the way to begin collecting the tax starting July 1 and putting it into an escrow account until the court case is fully resolved.

Our community fails when we know there are families who cannot access child care. That’s why Measure C is so critical. “As a parent and Alameda County voter, I feel relieved that the Board of Supervisors voted to collect the tax. We look forward to working together with the board to ensure a just recovery and that the money collected goes to the community as quickly as possible,” added Galloway.

Despite the measure getting more than 64 percent of the vote in the March 2020 primary election, county supervisors had declined to start collecting the estimated $150 million in annual proceeds last July after the Alameda County Taxpayers Association filed a lawsuit. The anti-tax group claims the measure required a two-thirds supermajority for passage. 

It’s important to note that 20 percent of Measure C funds could also provide funding to preserve the trauma center at Children’s Hospital Oakland, which is a lifeline for families but has seen many of its services moved to San Francisco as part of its affiliation with UCSF. 

COVID-19 has added more stress to the lives of parents, our children and child care providers. According to the San Francisco Federal Reserve, 51 percent of the current child care slots in California could be lost. Measure C provides a critical local revenue source to support parents, child care workers and essential workers as they recover from COVID-19. 

For our economy to have any chance to fully recover, we need to have adequate public funding, strong safety net systems and community oversight. Families can’t go back to work if child care providers are not available to provide early childhood education in a safe environment.

Collecting the tax is indeed the first step in implementing the law. Then, we have to make sure that these funds go where they are needed – towards supporting Alameda kids and parents who need child care and quality pediatric health care now more than ever.

As schools and early care centers have closed, we’ve seen how child care is foundational to getting people –especially mothers – back to work in order to rebuild a strong workforce. As a result, the pandemic has created a perfect storm that is forcing more women out of the workforce.

Experts estimate that women’s workforce participation is back to what it was in the ‘80s – an entire generation of progress wiped out in a year! That’s why the multi-racial coalition Care for Kids, which got Measure C on the ballot last year, is also urging Alameda officials to direct some of the $324 million in federal COVID-19 relief to child care and pediatric health care services. 

Since the pandemic began, nearly 3 million women have lost or been forced to leave our jobs, and women of color have been hit the hardest of all. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Black women’s unemployment last month was 8.5 percent and Latinas’ 8.8 percent compared to White women’s 5.1 percent.

“This pandemic has fallen largely on women’s shoulders, which data clearly shows” said Wendoly Marte, director of economic justice for Community Change Action. “If we hope to address this disparity, we can start by valuing caregiving, which is provided mostly by Black and Brown women. Even before the pandemic, the child care industry was in crisis and underfunded. 

“Today, it is devastating as many child care providers have shuttered their centers, while mothers have had to make difficult choices to make do. Without question, we need a healthy child care industry to rebuild our workforce and economy.”

Since the pandemic began, nearly 3 million women have lost or been forced to leave our jobs, and women of color have been hit the hardest of all. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Black women’s unemployment last month was 8.5 percent and Latinas’ 8.8 percent compared to White women’s 5.1 percent.

It is crucial that our county listens to the experiences of the community and works with those directly impacted to ensure the American Rescue Plan funds are used so all Alameda families get the care and support they need to survive this crisis, especially those in low-income neighborhoods of color. These demands embrace a caring economy, building a foundation to go beyond survival and guaranteeing that our families can thrive.

“Child care is so important to my family. It’s priceless to know that my son is in a safe, nurturing environment that will provide a better future for him,” said Galloway. “Every child should have this experience, and I thank my child care worker every day. Families need access to these resources right away, especially during the pandemic.”

Clarissa Doutherd is the executive director of Parent Voices Oakland, a grassroots, Black-led, multiracial parent-run, parent-led organization fighting for an equitable childcare system and amplifying the voices of parents from low-income communities of color. She can be reached at info@pvoakland.org.