Oregon childcare worker advocates ask for state financial support amid COVID-19 response

Coronavirus

Group requests stimulus for childcare workers, mortgage and rent forgiveness

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A volunteer childcare and family advocacy group is pleading state lawmakers to authorize economic relief for childcare workers and working class Oregonians, in general, amid COVID-19 response.

PDX Childcare Collective sent a letter to Gov. Kate Brown and members of the state legislature’s Special Joint Committee on Coronavirus Response requesting they allow the region’s childcare programs to close in order to slow the pandemic.

Days later, Gov. Brown issued a “Stay at home” executive order authorizing almost all childcare facilities to close from March 25 to April 28, with exceptions for childcare businesses that provide care to 10 or fewer children, so long as they don’t change participants.

PDX Childcare Collective organizer Becky Burgess told KOIN 6 News the move does not do enough to protect childcare workers and families.

Brown’s order did not address other economic measures outlined in PDX Childcare Collective’s letter, which also asked for a stimulus package for childcare workers, rent and mortgage forgiveness for buildings housing childcare programs and rent and mortgage forgiveness for all working class people in Oregon, to see them through the pandemic.

Burgess, a preschool teacher for Wild Lilac in Southeast Portland, volunteers for PDX Childcare Collective, an organization that supports childcare workers, families, and childcare-adjacent individuals.

“What we’re really wanting to underscore is childcare and childcare workers…if we lose that labor from people, we’re going to lose a massively valuable skill that is foundational for our society as a whole to function,” Burgess said.

She added that the organization also wants to signal support for the parents, nannies, and other at-home childcare workers who aren’t necessarily operating within a commercial business enterprise.

When asked her reaction to a recently announced federal stimulus package, which may provide up to $1,200 to most Americans, Burgess said that may not be enough for childcare workers, families and businesses to stay afloat in Oregon.

“If we’re really wanting to help and sustain people…it’s going to have to be significantly more sustainable and comprehensive” than a one time $1,200 payment that could barely cover one month’s rent, she said.

Previously PDX Childcare Collective offered free childcare for folks participating in local grassroots community organizing, like those attending meetings at Community Alliance of Tenants, Gresham Housing for the People, Pueblo Unido PDX, APANO and PDX Alliance for Self Care.

However, since the societal changes have taken place due to COVID-19 response, the organization has switched its focus to direct advocacy and matching childcare services with those in need of childcare.

The letter was sent in joint resolution with Growing Seeds Workers Union, a labor union of a childcare chain, and PDX Childcare Labor Alliance, a childcare worker organizing group, after it collected signatures of support online.

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