Fix this: Family child care providers deserve hazard pay | Opinion
Photo courtesy of Bright Future in Brooklyn Center.
There are approximately 7,000 family child care providers in Minnesota. Each of us is licensed to care for 10-12 children. That means that up to 84,000 kids are in the care of family child care providers. When the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, and the state shut down, we were not only asked to continue to work in-person, we were asked to open our very homes to children of essential workers.
We stayed open, for the children and families that we know and love. We stayed open, even at great risk to our health and the health of our own families, in the face of a communicable disease we all knew so little about. We only knew that people were dying, and we were being asked to help in the way that we could. We stayed open even though it cost us financially. We stayed open, like every other child care provider in the state.
We were thrilled when the Legislature passed a frontline worker pay bill that includes every essential worker, including child care workers. We fought hard for every essential worker to be included because we were all deemed essential and had no option to work from home.
But due to an unintentional oversight in the legislation, family child care providers are not included.
Family child care providers already operate on the thinnest of margins. We are independent and we often feel isolated. We do not have a support system, or other teachers who can cover for us. Up to 12 families depend on us to open our doors so they can go to work. If we do not open our doors, those parents cannot go to work.
The shutdown took a huge financial toll on our businesses. We were required to remain open, but our number of children dropped. Some parents lost their jobs and could no longer afford child care. Other parents were rightfully anxious about the pandemic and chose not to send their kids to child care. A lot of family child care providers also made the decision to take fewer kids for everyone’s safety. Those all meant, however, that Instead of getting paid for 12 children, many of us were only getting paid for three or four children. Yet, we had no option other than to remain open. We could not close and get other jobs. We made drastically less money, but still put in the same 60-70 hours per week that family child care providers often work.
The Minnesota Legislature only has a few days left in their session. Family child care providers deserve to be included in frontline worker hazard pay. We were never intentionally excluded. It should not be difficult to make sure we are included. We need the Legislature to fix the oversight in the frontline worker pay bill so we can be recognized with all other child care workers as essential.
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