Standing several feet apart, leaders and members of AFSCME Local 132, a union representing childcare workers, walked to the Capitol in Salem.
“Pop-ups and schools? Just not cool!” they chanted.
A couple dozen providers showed up to Wednesday’s rally in person, with several watching Local 132’s live broadcast of the rally on Facebook, sending messages of support.
As Gov. Kate Brown ordered most licensed child care facilities closed, she loosened requirements for emergency child care providers amid the coronavirus pandemic. Family child care providers say they have been financially impacted by the governor’s decisions.
Anita Bates is one of them. As a provider with two facilities in Gresham, Bates said she drove down to Salem to protest the state’s new rules allowing “pop-up” child cares. She said her licensed facilities have only been half full — and that she’s losing business to emergency providers without the experience.
“We don’t know where we’re going from here,” Bates said. “We’ve applied for SBA loans. We applied for the grants. We haven’t heard anything.”
Bates acknowledged the loss of business due to parents staying home and said she has reimbursed some of her customers. But she also has seven employees of her own, who she says are not yet receiving unemployment.
Brown’s order in March ordered licensed facilities closed unless approved as an emergency facility. Bates said she applied and was approved for an emergency facility.
Oregon’s Early Learning Division Office of Child Care said they received over 2,000 emergency child care applications as of April 2. Some 1,700 community-based providers have been approved, providing 9,500 child care slots statewide.
Brown's March order also required school districts to operate child care for essential workers if asked by the Oregon Department of Education. More than 40 school districts have applied to operate childcare facilities, though that doesn't mean they are actively operating facilities.
Independent providers like Bates say this flood of new providers — some providing free services — have hurt their business.
“Every day costs us child care providers, costs us spots,” said Local 132 staff representative Annaliese Shaehan during Wednesday’s rally. “And hurts the whole child care industry.”
The union has asked the state to fund all child care slots to ensure no income is lost and to pay subsidy child care programs for students who are absent because of COVID-19.
But Local 132 and providers like Bates say those resources haven’t proved enough to help support their industry.
“We’re lost, and that’s why we’re down here,” Bates said. “We need answers and we need them now.”