Safe communities, living wages, stable child care, affordable housing, and healthy workplaces. In good times and bad, what Californians need to thrive doesn’t change. We all want to live in flourishing communities and know our family, friends, and neighbors will be OK when a recession, pandemic, inflation, or extreme weather conditions hit.
Government and smart public policies are the pathways that can make all this possible and better support workers living paycheck to paycheck. It is public policy that can ensure people of all ages, races, and genders have equal access to health care, child care, sick leave, and benefits to know they won’t have to choose between a job, their health, and providing for their households.
As Governor Newsom reviews dozens of policy bills right now following the end of the 2022 legislative session — when legislators, advocates, community leaders, and everyday Californians came together and tirelessly moved ideas into action — here are 5 ways California can prioritize the needs of workers and families who have been denied economic and health opportunities.
1. Eliminate Family Fees for Subsidized Child Care
Child care is critical for working parents, but the high cost of care can be a challenge for families. And monthly fees added onto subsidized care only add to the strain for families living paycheck to paycheck.
California can act now to ensure families and child care providers are supported by changing who carries the burden of fees, including making sure:
- No family earning below 75 percent of the State Median Income pays family fees.
- Family fees do not exceed one percent of a family’s monthly income.
- Child care providers absorb no reduction in pay and the number of child care contracted spaces and vouchers are not reduced because of a reduction in the collection of family fees.
California can lead the way by putting state and federal dollars to work in providing stable child care, alleviating the burden of child care costs for families with low incomes, and valuing child care providers — primarily women of color — who care for our youngest Californians.
2. Improve Payment Rates for Paid Family Leave & State Disability Insurance
All Californians at some time in life will need paid time off to care for their health, care for a new baby, or an aging or sick family member, and no one should risk their financial security to do so. California has previously been a national leader on paid family leave as the first in the nation to build a comprehensive program supporting workers.
However, workers in low-wage jobs are least likely to be able to use the benefit to recover from birth, bond with a new baby, or care for an ailing loved one because they can’t afford to live on just a fraction of their wages the low payment rates they receive provide when accessing paid family leave and state disability insurance. Without action in the next month, California will actually backtrack on paid family leave and the rates will go down to just 55% of a workers’ wage in January 2023. For a worker earning minimum wage that’s just $330 per week.
California can boost paid family leave and disability insurance payment rates to make these benefits more accessible for California workers with low wages so workers don’t have to choose between paying the bills and caring for themselves or their family.
3. Extend COVID Supplemental Paid Sick Leave
Every Californian wants to live in a safe community where their family and neighbors’ health and well-being are protected and supported so they can go to school, work, and care for one another.
But California workers, families, and businesses are all at risk when people don’t have enough paid time off to care for themselves or their sick family members. And 3 sick days — what many workers in low-wage jobs will be forced to get by on come September 30 — doesn’t support workers nor create the healthy schools, workplaces, and homes Californians need.
California can extend COVID supplemental paid sick leave and look to provide every worker with at least 10 days of paid sick leave ensuring no one is left with just 3 days a year again.
4. Create and Fund the Excluded Workers Program
All California workers should have a financial cushion to help them stay housed and put food on the table when they lose a job.
Unfortunately, immigrant workers who are undocumented are excluded from receiving unemployment benefits, despite their critical contributions to the state’s economy and our communities. These workers have also been disproportionately harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic effects, but are excluded from most public supports and the social safety net.
California can create and fund an Excluded Workers Program to provide a crucial safety net for immigrant workers who lose their jobs but are ineligible for Unemployment Insurance and other safety net programs. This would allow them to continue supporting themselves and their loved ones.
5. Connect Unemployed Californians to Health Coverage
Access to timely, quality, and comprehensive health care services is important for all Californians and helps prevent or manage chronic health conditions while also promoting overall physical and mental health.
But when people lose their jobs and incomes drop as many Californians experienced during the pandemic, they often lose health coverage for themselves and their dependents. This disruption in health coverage can lead to delayed care and worse health outcomes. Many Californians who become unemployed are not informed and do not know they can find coverage through Medi-Cal or Covered California.
California can help ensure people have information about their health care options by allowing the Employment Development Department to share unemployment information with Covered California — as already occurs with other state and federal agencies. Giving Covered California access to such information would allow them to conduct targeted outreach to Californians who are likely to benefit from information about their coverage options for health plans and affordability assistance.
We want to hear from you. Advancing policy and budget priorities never stops. What do you hope to see California move forward on for workers and families?