Eighteen moms and advocates hold up children’s onesies that read “1,360 families need ERDC. Fund Child Care Now! Care Can’t Wait” with the Oregon Capital dome in the background. Photo credit: FLI Social.

Oregon parents, advocates press lawmakers for more child care funding

January 12, 2024

Oregon Capital Chronicle

A letter from Oregon’s Department of Early Learning and Care upended Natalie Kiyah’s life last spring.

Kiyah, at the time a pregnant mother of three young children, had received a stipend through the Employment Related Day Care program to help pay for child care. But her 2022 tax returns showed that her income exceeded the annual limit by about $2,000, and she lost the state aid.

Unable to come up with an extra $1,500 to $2,000 a month to keep her toddler in full-time care, and unable to work the same hours at her photography and marketing business without child care, Kiyah and her children moved into a shelter.

Lisa Ebony spent months living and working out of her car in southern Oregon with her five children. When she first lost her home in 2017, she was pregnant and had four kids ranging in age from 1 to 8, and she couldn’t find a job that would pay enough for housing and child care.

Even if she could have afforded it, child care wasn’t an option when Lisa Ebony and her children were homeless – providers needed a proof of address and a regular schedule, and they weren’t available when she was working delivery shifts. “I think what sometimes people miss about my story and all these other stories is that what happened to us initially to put us in a situation to understand firsthand why housing and child care are so important – not just connected, but why they’re so key in everyone’s life – is that the end of our story could be ‘I’m so grateful to be living in a state like Oregon, where I don’t have to worry about those things,’” she said.

“We should not have stories like this anywhere in the United States, and I think that it’s embarrassing for the state of Oregon.”

Child care advocates make their case for more support

January 12, 2024

Portland Tribune

Natalie Kiyah knows what life is like with — and without — state-supported day care for her children.

She wants legislators to know that it’s better to be working with child care.

“When it came time to reapply for the program in 2023, I was shocked to receive an exit letter because my annual income was $2,000 over the exit limit. My monthly day-care stipend at the time was $1,600. So my economic stability crumbled,” she said. “I thought I was on the way to buying a house for myself and my kids. Instead, I ended up stopping my business completely. I made the decision to move us into a safe and secure family shelter. After trying to regain my senses, I was working part time in order to qualify for ERDC. I got to reapply and gained access to it again after a month or two. After that process I was able to gain more traditional employment through the Oregon Food Bank. Without ERDC, I would not have been able to land a full-time position to provide for my family.”

Kiyah said her child-care expenses equal about 75% of her take-home pay. Her two older children are covered by after-school care, her toddler by day care.

“I just want to hone in on the fact that without access to affordable child care, we can’t work to keep food on the table or provide stable housing,” she said. “Child-care costs drive poverty, poverty drives hunger — and the circle just keeps going.”

Projected shortfall for Oregon’s child care subsidy program grows to $99 million

January 12, 2024

Salem Statesman Journal

Access to child care impacts other issues lawmakers have said they will prioritize, including the ability for someone to remain in stable housing, Marcos said.

“COVID has really exposed just how critical child care is to workforce development, stable housing, early learning, and setting children up for success,” Marcos added. “I know how much I needed to patch childcare options together and it’s just not sustainable because while you’re trying to do that, you’re also having to figure out what jobs work for your child care that’s available.”