By Zoila Toma, Family Child Care Provider
I’m a child care provider in Signal Hill, California and member of SEIU Local 99. I’ve been doing this for eight years, so when it comes to cleaning and disinfecting, I’m used to it and I’m prepared. I have parents drop their children at the door and have hand sanitizer right there for them.
I’m not afraid. I’m a fearless person. I grew up in Central America so I know how to survive. I don’t remember much because I came to the U.S. when I was just 10 years old but I do remember not having much. Right now, I have what I need to stay safe– not because the government provided it to me, but because of my community. The parents bring me disinfecting Clorox when they see extra at the store and my neighbors know I run a daycare so they’ll bring me cleaning supplies too. I also got some N95 masks but I donated them because I know there are people who are more vulnerable.
I’m very lucky. But many other family child care providers aren’t as lucky. I can hear them crying on the phone. Those that are still taking care of children are lacking supplies. Those that don’t have children coming anymore don’t have any money. They can’t get unemployment because they don’t have a social security number, just an EIN number. So they pay taxes, but can’t get unemployment.
And a lot of them don’t have health insurance. They make enough not to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to pay for it. So what happens if they have covid symptoms and can’t get tested? I’m one of the union leaders so I’m in contact with them. We always email and text each other throughout the day to see if we’re all okay. We send each other information and resources with links.
We have English and Spanish text groups. So I text the information then I have to translate it and send it to another group.
But there’s only so much we can do. We can probably help with food but we can’t pay their mortgage.
I asked my husband the other day: Why are we so great? Why are we so great when we cannot take care of our own people? Why are we so great when we’re so behind from other countries when it comes to COVID? … when we’re behind in testing? … when we can’t provide health care providers with PPE? Our country has so much money but hasn’t invested in the right things. A lot of workers like me are surviving thanks to our communities. But it’s not the responsibility of my clients, neighbors and union brothers and sisters. It’s the government’s responsibility to make sure people are taken care of during this crisis, not big corporations.
They need to make sure all workers, no matter if they have a social security number or not, have access to healthcare and covid testing. And that all workers can get unemployment benefits so they don’t lose their homes and can feed their families. And they need to make sure COVID information and resources are distributed in Spanish and other languages.
I’m thankful for the supportive community I have, but it’s time for the government to step up.