Oregon AFSCME and SEIU
collaborated on a child care providers Lobby Day Feb. 20 at the state capitol.
Child care providers — AFSCME represents the licensed, registered ones,
SEIU the exempt, unlicensed ones — have not seen an increase in the state
subsidy rate since 2007. While there is talk at the capitol about the
possibility of expanding the Employment-Related Day Care (ERDC) program, Oregon
AFSCME Political Coordinator Eva Rippeteau says all involved are in "a tough
spot" when the discussion moves to adding more families off the waiting list
vs. increasing the subsidy rate.
"For example, our Local 132
(Child Care Providers Together) President Autumn David has been a provider the
past 16 years, and she's only seen one increase in those 16 years," said Rippeteau.
"Some of our providers get as little as $2 per hour per child through the state
subsidy — that's simply not enough for them to stay in business. So it's
a difficult issue."
The state actually has some
additional money available from a 2001 federal block grant. In the 2012
mini-session, AFSCME and SEIU jointly asked if some of that $5.4 million "left
over" block grant money could be used for either add-backs to those in ERDC, or
to increase rates.
"We were told 'no' on that
request, but also told we could ask to use the money in 2013 as part of an
'expansion' of the program," says Rippeteau. "We've talked with several
legislators, and there's not a clear definition of what 'expansion' means.
There are probably 2,000 to 3,000 families out there that would like to be
added to the program, but adding them at the current subsidy rate doesn't help
our providers much. It's not an issue with an easy answer."
Despite some fuzziness
around the issues, Lobby Day participants felt good about their time at the
capitol. They delivered three key messages to legislators:
- We need increased rates — Child care providers in Oregon have not
had a pay increase since 2007 and make, on average, $2 an hour per child
they care for.
- Working families need access to affordable
child care — Oregon has
implemented drastic cuts to the ERDC program, which means fewer parents
have access to affordable child care. Without the assistance of the child
care program, a parent who earns minimum wage cannot afford even the
lowest cost child care options.
- Kids deserve quality care — Union child care providers have been
advocating for improved trainings and tools around early-learning and
"It was great," said David.
"We had the opportunity to share with many legislators what we do and what ours
need are. Some of our children did the 'ask' to state Sen. Chip Shields
(D-Portland) — it turned out that some of them go to school in Portland
with his daughter. So I felt it was a very productive day."
In addition to David, AFSCME
participants included providers Renee Holmes, Sue Mackey and Sabi Velasco, in
addition to Rippeteau and Local 132 staff rep Faye Zepeda.