With a bloated budget for child care, South San Francisco officials passed a comprehensive plan last week on how they intend to increase subsidies to provide child care, transitional kindergartens, after-school care and other services to help working parents.
In addition to state and federal funds, the city has more than $11 million of its own money available for this effort and expects millions more in the coming years through fees paid by developers building in the city. Since 2001, the city has charged the fee, which has been used to build two child care centers, upgrade play areas and provide subsidies to child care providers.
“South San Francisco was the first city in San Mateo County to implement a child care development fee…and we are, yes, the first city in San Mateo County to complete a master plan child care,” said Kathleen White, a consultant who prepared the document. , said.
The plan outlines a wide range of goals, but chief among them is to address local labor shortages in the industry, which are currently preventing the city’s efforts from expanding, regardless of funding, according to the report.
“The shortfall in this area of early childhood education actually inhibits the growth of programs, whether you have facilities, rooms, or funding,” White said. “We had a labor issue before COVID. COVID has exacerbated this labor issue, and now we have quite a bit of fresh cash for expansion, so it’s kind of the perfect storm for a labor shortage.
The document attributes the shortage to the county’s high cost of living combined with health concerns amid the pandemic. It recommends expanding the local pipeline to industry and sets a “realistic and achievable goal” of at least 10% of the city’s high school graduates to pursue local education pathways. Developing the workforce and increasing wages in industry are also seen as solutions.
Another key goal is to continue using city funds to build child care facilities as well as coax developers to include them in new buildings as a community benefit.
“While we have impact fees right now, we really need more developer participation to provide facilities and space,” White said. “There are a lot of cranes in South San Francisco, really every crane should be a babysitting opportunity.”
Other recommendations include increasing subsidies for infant preschool spaces, expanding transitional kindergarten, closing gaps in preschool services to neighborhoods west of El Camino Real, and supporting the South San Francisco Unified School District for child care funding.
According to the plan, there are around 9,500 families in the city with children aged 12 and under or expecting children next year. The city conducted a survey of 1,111 people, targeting residents in this group.
It revealed that 85% of respondents worked full time and 74% said childcare costs were an issue. After-school childcare was reported as the most difficult type of childcare to find by 54% of respondents.
Additionally, the plan cites a national survey conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation in 2021 that found 75% of working parents had young children at home with a parent during work hours during the pandemic, and 50% of the parents who had not yet returned. to labor after said child care was the reason.
“It’s a very personal issue…I probably couldn’t live here without the subsidized child care we provide,” said Mayor Mark Nagales, who said he saw the cost of child care. in the city for up to $2,400 a month for babysitting a toddler three days a week.
“It’s basically a rent payment,” he said. “I have two children who use the [city’s] child care, I pay $700 a month…It has helped me and my family tremendously.
Vice-Mayor Buenaflor Nicolas said childcare is also a matter of gender equity, as the task often falls to women, which can prevent them from entering the labor market.
“If we truly believe that children are the future of our city, child care should be one of our priorities,” she said.
The childcare plan is intended to be used until 2030 and is part of the city’s general plan, which is being completely overhauled. White emphasized the need for city council action to implement the identified policies.
“For me, this plan is a starting point, there are a lot of ideas here, a lot of recommendations. … Next steps will be determined by city leaders,” White said. “My only caveat is that 2030 is right around the corner, so I wouldn’t delay.”