An order from California Gov. Gavin Newsom's office this week directs licensed childcare providers to prioritize the children of essential workers, who are unable to work from home amid the spread of COVID-19.
But the order does not include new funding to subsidize this service and Community Action Plan San Luis Obispo says its resources are already close to maxed out.
"Childcare is extremely expensive so we're talking hundreds of thousands of dollars likely needed to do this," CAPSLO Subsidized Childcare Programs Manager Mika Buchanan said. "The guidance was to use our existing funding if we have any that we haven't already been providing services to our current families and we'd offer services to our (essential) workers."
Many of the licensed childcare providers are already watching over children deemed at-risk and don't have the ability to take on new children.
A lack of funding coupled with limited access to cleaning supplies means childcare providers are faced with a dilemma.
"Reduced store hours and limitations on quantities that programs can purchase are especially problematic for those programs that are serving children," CAPSLO Children Services Manager Shana Paulson said.
CAPSLO is partnering with local nonprofits to get toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and other essentials to the licensed care providers.
The organization put out a call on social media in March for licensed care providers to come forward to take on the children of essential workers, especially those in the healthcare and emergency services sector.
"There has been a call to mobilize safe care options," Paulson said. "Over 220 licensed childcare programs are answering that call."
Those care providers, which are contracted through CAPSLO, can care for up to 3,700 SLO County kids who meet state guidelines for care.
According to Children’s Resource & Referral of Santa Barbara County, the County has over 200 licensed childcare providers. As of Thursday, those providers had as many as 560 open spaces to take in additional children of essential workers.
Under Newsom's order, children deemed "at-risk" are considered the top priority for childcare services, followed by the children of essential workers.
To qualify, the parents in a two-parent household must both be deemed essential, unable to work remotely, and have assets valued at less than $1,000,000.
"Now more than ever we're really relying on them to serve, nurture and educate our community's children so our essential workers can focus on supporting our community during this unusual time," Paulson said.
The state childcare mandate is in effect through June 30 or until the state's emergency declaration is lifted.
Paulson said she hopes families who are at home and away from their normal childcare providers will reconnect April 30, which has been deemed Childcare Awareness Day, to let them know how important they are.