If voters approve Measure A on the June ballot, Alameda County would become the first to tackle this hidden crisis, which is having a "cataclysmic impact on families' lives," said Clarissa Doutherd, Alameda County director of the community organization Parent Voices.
Measure A would increase the county sales tax by half a percent to fund child care for more families, especially homeless families, and to increase the training and income of caregivers, who often work at poverty wages. The measure would generate about $140 million annually.
Doutherd said 12,000 Alameda County families are now on the waiting list for state-funded child-care subsidies. "Over time, the situation has gotten worse," she said, noting that more families have become homeless. "I've been getting calls from shelters asking about child care because the mothers couldn't get jobs because they had no child care, so then they couldn't get housing. So, families are just generally getting stuck."
Subsidies are essential for low-wage parents: Child care in a licensed center or home-based program in Alameda County costs a third or more of what a parent earns at a $15-an-hour job. "If they can't get child-care subsidies, they can't work or go to school," said home-based child-care provider Carolyn Carpenter. Or parents with jobs arrange makeshift care, sometimes forced to leave young children in situations ranging from unhappy to dangerous.