Senator Hurtado’s farmworker childcare bill signed into law

Legislation aiming to expand equitable access to childcare for farmworkers and their families is signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom

FRESNO – Until a few weeks ago, California’s farm workers were losing out on roughly $400,000 in additional childcare vouchers—a government-run program for workers to exchange part of their gross pay for tax-free credit toward childcare. Thanks to Sen. Melissa Hurtado’s (D-Sanger) Senate Bill 393 – signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom last week – farmworker childcare could be brough up to par with the rest of the state.

SB 393—The Farmworkers Access to Childcare Act—addresses the unique operational costs of the childcare voucher program, like the need to maintain five satellite offices for field workers to access childcare, as well as align the state’s only migrant childcare program funding stream with other voucher-based childcare programs.

“Our migrant farmworkers uproot their lives to provide the food we eat—they are the backbone of our community,” Senator Hurtado said. “While many stayed at home to avoid COVID-19 infections, migrant workers traveled across the state, working long hours to ensure we had food on the table. Their travel to meet our needs leads to instability and unreliability when it comes to childcare options. The Farmworker Access to Childcare Act will help ease the burden migrant workers face when relocating to new communities, easing the burden they face to obtain childcare. I applaud the governor’s continued support for our farmworkers through his signature of SB 393.”

Hernan Hernandez, executive director of the California Farmworker Foundation, told The Sun-Gazette in February that he estimates around 55% of California’s farmworkers are women and that lack of access to affordable childcare has contributed to cyclical poverty in farmworker families.

“When you’re looking at one farmworker who is the head of the household and they’re the only one that is working, they’re going to struggle to sustain the family, they’re going to struggle to have a roof over their head, but also provide the basic needs for the family,” Hernandez said. “When you take into consideration if they’re undocumented, which around 60% to 70% of the industry is, it makes it much harder.”

Hernandez said lack of access to adequate and affordable childcare has left some farmworkers with a tough choice.

“If you’re a young family and you have three young kids, and if you’re paying around $25 to $30 per kid [in childcare], what we hear is a lot of farmworkers say, ‘I’d rather stay home because all of my paycheck is pretty much going to daycare.’ And this is daycare that’s more like your neighbor taking care of your kids or a family friend or a family member.”

Jeremy Tobias, CEO of Community Action Partnership of Kern (CAPK) said the organization is thrilled Gov. Newsom has signed SB 403.

“Migrant workers provide us all with access to fresh, healthy food and help California’s agricultural businesses sell their products into markets across the globe,” Tobias said. “The new law provides the Migrant Childcare Alternative Payment Program the resources it needs to ensure migrant workers can access childcare in any county in California and get the support they need to plant, grow and harvest food from fields, vineyards and orchards across the Golden State.”

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