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Levin: New plan curbs childcare costs, gets Americans back to work

OCEANSIDE — With summer here and more pandemic restrictions being lifted, summer camps have started to keep children entertained and cared for while school is out and parents are at work.

Due to the growing costs of childcare, Rep. Mike Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano) met with Oceanside Boys & Girls Clubs CEO Jodi Diamond to discuss how additional federal funds can help childcare become more affordable for parents and the non-profits that run them.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a quarter of the country’s childcare providers to close their doors by the end of 2020.

“We remain at risk of permanently losing 4.5 million childcare slots across the country,” Levin said during his most recent virtual town hall on June 9.

Rep. Mike Levin
Rep. Mike Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano) and Oceanside Boys and Girls Clubs CEO Jodi Diamond discuss affordable childcare during Levin’s June 9 virtual town hall meeting. Screenshot

According to Levin, that is why the American Rescue Plan signed into law in March by President Joseph R. Biden included a $39 billion down payment to help keep childcare providers from going under.

Levin said the president’s forthcoming American Families Plan would go a step further with its proposal to create a national, comprehensive paid family and medical leave program to help both parents and caregivers go back to work.

According to the White House, the American Families Plan would ensure that low and middle-income families won’t pay more than 7% of their income on quality childcare for children under 5, thus saving families around $14,800 per year on childcare expenses.

Additionally, childcare providers would receive more funding to cover costs for early childhood care and education including curriculum, small class sizes and inclusive environments for children with disabilities.

“The pandemic has been costly to nonprofits and businesses alike,” Diamond said during Levin’s townhall.

Before COVID-19, the Oceanside Boys & Girls Clubs served around 4,200 youth. During the pandemic, the clubs had to close their physical doors but were swiftly up and running virtually and also serving meals to the community in need.

Once the club was finally able to open, the number of children that could be served was greatly reduced due to social distancing regulations and other pandemic restrictions. At the same time, its hours of daily childcare increased, jumping from the pre-COVID 25 hours per week to 55 hours per week, thus increasing expenses.

“One of the hardest things we had to do is limit capacity due to social distancing,” Diamond said. “That meant not every family was going to be served.”

The club was also unable to hold its usual fundraising events, which also hurt financially.

Diamond explained that with more federal funding the club and other nonprofits like it would no longer have to completely shoulder the burden of serving children and could include more wraparound services such as emergency food, mentoring, academic support and a “kaleidoscope of opportunities.”

“The youth that has been attending who we provide for are making tremendous strides,” Diamond said. “We want that for all kids in our communities.”

Oceanside Boys & Girls Club is celebrating its 70th anniversary of providing its services to the community this year. The club recently kicked off its summer camp on June 14, which will run until Aug. 11.

While the president’s American Jobs Plans aims to improve the nation’s infrastructure and get more people back to work, the American Families Plan aims to help make that possible with its provisions on childcare as well as family leave.

Currently, the United States is one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t guarantee paid family leave for its workforce. The American Families Plan aims to change that by creating a paid family and medical leave program which will provide workers partial wage replacements while taking time off for things like taking care of a new child or a sick family member.

The plan guarantees 12 weeks of paid parental, family and personal illness and safety leave by year 10 of the program. Workers will also get 3 days of bereavement leave per year in the first year of the program.

The program will provide workers up to $4,000 a month with a minimum of two-thirds of an average week of wages being replaced, which will eventually rise to 80% of wages replaced for the lowest wage workers.

“It’s important for workers to take time off for themselves and their families,” Levin said.