Hello and welcome to Fed Listens. I’m Laura Choi, senior vice president of public engagement at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. And thank you for joining us today. Here at the San Francisco Fed, we strive to be a community-engaged organization. And that means we’re in ongoing dialogue with the public and listening to the communities we serve. One of the things we’ve heard loud and clear is the importance of childcare and other forms of dependent care for allowing people to work. The Federal Reserve is hosting Fed Listens sessions across the country to learn about the economic recovery from the pandemic.
And here at the San Francisco Fed, we’ve chosen to focus this session on the topic of care work and the role it plays in supporting employment as part of the ongoing recovery. Today, we’re going to ground the conversation in some of the recent research on parental labor force participation during the pandemic. And then we’ll engage in dialogue with experts from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. But first to get things started, it’s my pleasure to welcome Mary Daly, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Mary, I’ll turn it over to you.
Thank you, Laura. And thank you all for joining. Laura mentioned this in her opening that we’ve always known that care work or the importance of dependent care is an essential ingredient to a thriving economy, but in no time in recent history, to my memory, has this been so more vividly obvious than in the pandemic. If you, you’re going to watch, you’re going to see Nicolas Petrosky-Nadeau show you some research. Some things that clarify just how hard it’s been for parents, especially moms, for especially Black and Hispanic mothers of children to stay in the labor force and to participate when schools have been closed or childcare, aftercare hasn’t been as available. And these are really important things because from my vantage point as a policymaker, one of the most common questions I’m asked is, “Aren’t we there yet? Haven’t we achieved full employment? Isn’t everyone in the United States who wants to work actually already at a job with all those job openings?”
And what I remind them of again and again is to look at the slides that Nicolas shows and to recognize that just saying that the labor market has a low unemployment rate is not saying that everyone who wants a job can get one, because some of the barriers are not about job openings, but about the network of things that support work. Dependent care is an essential ingredient to supporting work. And today we’re going to hear not only the ramifications of not having it, but some of the things we can do to maybe fix that problem. I think everyone listening will be recognizing the importance of having everyone who wants to work have that option, that choice. And today will be the beginning of that understanding and that conversation of how we’re going to build an intentional future going forward where everyone inclusively has an opportunity to participate. So, Laura, I’ll turn it back to you to get us started.
Great. Thank you so much, Mary. Thanks for joining us and for your remarks. And as Mary mentioned and alluded to, we’re going to be hearing now from Nicolas Petrosky-Nadeau who is vice president of economic research at the San Francisco Fed. And he’ll be presenting his latest research and some of the data on parental participation in the labor market. Nicolas, the floor is yours.
Thank you, Laura. Thank you so much for the opportunity to speak today about our research. And I’m very much looking forward to learning from the panel discussion that follows. I’m going to be talking about research that is based with Olivia Lofton here at the bank and Lily Seitelman who’s at Boston University. And what I’ll talk about for the next few minutes is about a few unique aspects of a pandemic recession. The sudden health-related disruptions to economic activity really caused a dramatic shift in spending patterns away from in-person services. By April of 2020 last year, spending on travel and restaurants had fallen by nearly two thirds and right behind that fallen demand was a massive amount of job loss. Leisure and hospitality, for example, lost nearly 50% of their jobs. We also experienced massive workplace shutdowns as we tried to control the spread of the virus and the shift to working from home.
But what we also quickly learned is that the ability to work from home varied tremendously across different occupations. And it was often timed to levels of educational attainment, meaning the ability to sustain work during the pandemic was really disparate across different segments of the population. Adding to this was a layer of disruption from school closures. We all experienced as parents having to work from home and oversee our children experiencing Zoom distance learning. And there were severe cutbacks to the availability of childcare. And what has come as a consequence of this was a disproportionate impact of the recession on women and communities of color who are overrepresented in sectors that were exposed to the virus and who have taken on a disproportionate share of the additional care work for children and the elderly during the pandemic. And this continues to this day.
As Mary mentions and has mentioned, the economic recovery continues to be determined and restrained by lingering health challenges, from the risks of infection, which continue to weigh on individual decisions and availability to work, to the fact that childcare remains limited and normalizations of schooling is still imperfect across districts, largely across income lines. Now something that as economists we have observed is that no two business cycles, periods of economic expansions followed by periods of economic slowdowns or contractions, are exactly alike, but there are important commonalities when you look at the historical record. The impact of a slowdown generally falls more heavily on segments of the populations working in occupations that require lower levels of educational attainment for instance, and they’re often the last to benefit from a recovery. It’s also been typical to see men’s employment fall more during a contraction than women’s employment, but not so during this pandemic recession, which has severely restricted economic activity and sectors that employ a larger share of women.
Relying on the current population survey, which is our principal source in the United States for understanding what is going on in the labor market, and focusing on a population aged between 25 and 54 years old, which is the bulk of the workforce, but also in order to separate out decisions regarding retirements during the pandemic, we calculated that by October of 2020 half a million men in this age group had left the labor market. But this stands in stark contrast with over 1.4 million who had left the labor market. And as of the last reading of the data in October of this year, the situation is much the same. Now what I’m going to do in this chart and the next is use a device to take into account that levels of participation in the labor market are very different across men and women. In the United States, about 88% of men in this age group participate in the labor market compared to 76%. So to help make comparisons of the labor market experience during the pandemic, what you’ll see is a scaling of labor force participation rates to February, 2020, right before the pandemic.
And in this chart, men are represented in red, and blue represents women. The visual here is of an immediate larger decline for women’s participation in the labor market at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. But what also stands out is that over time, this gap has grown. The recovery in the labor market has been stronger for men than it has been for women. And while the pandemic has been unique in its impact on different sectors of the economy, it’s also been unique in being coupled with a large and persistent rise in the need for individuals to provide care work, in especially childcare and supervision. A dramatic consequence of this is apparent when we look at the unequal labor market responses across parents and non-parents. In this chart, we’re continuing to use the Current Population Survey, that survey of the thousands of households, and we’re separating individuals in between the ages of 25 and 54 into two groups, depending on whether or not there is a child under the age of 17 in the household. And we’re referring to this group as parents during the pandemic.
Mothers and fathers here are represented by the solid lines, and non-parents during the pandemic, by the dash lines. It’s quite striking to see the degree to which parents drive the pandemic gender gaps in labor force participation. Labor force exits were much smaller for fathers than any other group during the pandemic. And labor force exits, the dark blue line for mothers, were much larger and much more persistent. And this stands in contrast to the experience of men and women without children at home, the dash lines, whose experience is rather similar. The other element that stands out, and related to disruptions from school, is the rapid rebound in labor force participation of mothers in the summer of 2022 was just as quickly undone as the school year failed to start with our school’s reopening.
Moving forward to 18 months into the pandemic, we have seen fathers return to pre-COVID levels of participation in the labor market, whereas mothers are still far below pre-pandemic levels of participation in the labor market. And in terms of the number of individuals on the sideline, this corresponds to no less than 1.3 million mothers. Now it’s important when we think about the underlying causes and consequences of a large number of women having left the labor market to look at the differences and experience across segments of the population. And I am starting here with this chart by focusing on changes in labor force participation for mothers grouped into three levels of educational attainment. Mothers with a high school diploma or less represented in green, mothers with some college education in yellow, and mothers with a college degree in pink. The decline in participation at the onset of the pandemic was much more, up to four times more pronounced for mothers with a high school diploma or less.
And while college educated mothers have returned to their pre-pandemic levels of participation in the labor market by the summer of 2021, this is the pink line, this is not what we observe for mothers with less than a college degree. Mothers with a high school degree or less have seen essentially no progress in terms of return to the labor market since the start of the 2020 school year. And we’ve even seen a decline in participation for mothers with some college over the last 12 months. Our communities of colors are particularly exposed to fluctuations and economic activity in business cycle downturns. This is an area in which President Daly has done much leading and forward-thinking research. Keeping the focus on mothers, this chart tracks the change in labor force participation for Black, Hispanic, and White mothers. The initial wave of COVID-19 closures of businesses and schools was accompanied by a much more pronounced exit from the labor market by Black and Hispanic mothers. And as counties tried to reopen during the summer of 2020, participation in the labor market for these two groups of mothers experienced a significant rebound.
This, however, was rapidly undone with the start of the new school year that failed to resume in the way that we hoped to be in-person. 18 months into the pandemic, and this is a clear sign of the lingering effects of living under pandemic conditions, the gap that appeared at the start between White and Black and Hispanic mothers’ labor force participations remains much the same. Now it’s true that the differences in the strength of economic recovery across different sectors, particularly those hard hit by pandemic conditions that require in-person work and which are still lagging today, plays a role here. But there is equally a role for disparities in the quality of school reopenings across districts. We have seen that school districts where students are predominantly from communities of color have been slower to return to fully in-person teaching. This has also come coupled with limited access to daycare and other forms of childcare. Now indeed, we know from multiple studies that mothers took on the lion’s share of the increased care work during the pandemic.
We know this from the largest shares of mothers who report caregiving as the reason for not working compared to fathers. We know this from households, that even within households with two parents, mothers took up most of the reported increase in care work during the pandemic. Given these competing needs and demands on their time, families have had to make very hard choices. And mothers’ decisions with respect to work have been quite different depending on whether they were engaged in full-time or part-time work. When we looked at the experience of mothers who are working full-time as we do in this chart, we found something striking. While there was a large decline at the start of the pandemic for mothers, larger than for fathers working full-time, that gap disappeared rather quickly. By the fall of 2020, there was essentially no difference in employment for mothers and fathers working full-time. In other words, mothers who had been working part-time, cut back in order to manage increased care work, while mothers working full-time were able to find other arrangements, which also have been found to involve having to work two full-time jobs at work and at home.
Now, something that is important from looking forward is that part-time work is an important way in which mothers maintain an attachment to the labor force. They maintain experience and a professional network while children are young. And this research has shown, it’s very important for facilitating a transition to full-time employment and careers as children grow older and more independent. The use of part-time work by mothers also reflects the fact that mothers are looking for flexibility at work while their children are young. So we investigated the role of flexibility during the pandemic. And here it became very important for us to draw a distinction between two forms of flexibility, the flexibility in the ability to perform the work offsite, to work from home or telework, which we’re all very familiar with now, and the ability to have control over start and end times, at least occasionally for your work. The ability to control work scheduling.
Here, we were able to draw on additional surveys that are run for the BLS on how Americans use their time and describe the degree of job flexibility in starting and end times in order to have a clearer view of measures of flexibility within different types of occupations. And what we found is that the two forms of occupations do not necessarily overlap. To give you two examples, workers in food preparation occupations cannot do their jobs from home, fewer of 2% report being able to do their jobs from home, but have a relatively high degree of work flexibility, that is, 45% report being able to have some control over the start and end times. This contrasts with education and related occupations that have a relatively high ability to work remotely, but a very low ability to set schedules. So we used the fact that the current population survey follows individuals for up to a year in order to estimate in a statistical model, the impact of job flexibility in terms of work schedules and working from home on the probability of exiting the labor force.
What we found is that flexibility in scheduling hours was essential for juggling work and family obligations. That is, the increase in mothers’ labor force exits compared to non-parent women in low telework ability occupations and high telework occupations were not statistically significant, meaning we were hard to say that there was a clear difference between mothers and non-mothers within those occupations. But when we looked at differences in ability to set your work schedule, the difference was quite striking and quite clear. Flexibility in setting work schedules allowed mothers to remain in the labor market during the pandemic.
So what can we take away from this? The sudden and really dramatic health disruptions that we all went through into our social lives shifted where and how we work with an added need for care work that persists to this day. And much of the burden has fallen on women. We also uncovered that much of the gender gaps that appeared during the pandemic have been driven by choices related to part-time employment. And much of the adverse impact on mothers is partially offset by the ability to set working hours and having flexibility in work schedules. Thank you.
Great. Thank you so much, Nicolas, for presenting your research and sharing that with us. So we do have a little bit of time for questions. So I wanted to bring up one of the questions that came in from the audience. Did your research uncover differences between single parents compared to families with at least two adults able to shoulder the added caregiving needs during the pandemic?
Thank you. That’s a really relevant question. Single parents are facing, at all times and during the pandemic, unique constraints in order to meet their obligations with their children and at work. Now, what we found is that single parents saw fewer exits from the labor market during the pandemic. And part of it is attributable to the fact that single parents had in place the means to take care of their children while at work even prior to the pandemic. And those means were largely intact during the pandemic. But I say largely because there are discrepancies across regions and across groups. So this is an average observation. We have seen that in locations where childcare was disrupted more severely and for a longer amount of time, even in those situations, single parents have struggled quite dramatically.
Great. Thank you for that addition. One other question came in, it says, “I’m noticing that the scale of the charts is very narrow ranging 92% to 100%. Are the differences meaningful? I see the race lines, for example, crossing each other at various times, which made me wonder about the margins of error.”
That’s a very good observation. What we found is that the differences at particular points in time were not significant because of the size of the samples that we have. But at important points of time in over long periods, say during the initial onset of the pandemic and where we are today in October of 2021, the differences are significant. They are quite large. Another order of magnitude that’s helpful to remembers in terms of the numbers of mothers who are not in the labor force today, but were prior to the pandemic. That corresponds to about 1.3 million individuals.
Great. All right. I think that is all for the questions that came in. So Nicolas, I just want to thank you again for your research and sharing your time and expertise with us today. Thanks so much.
All right. At this time, we are going to go ahead and transition to hearing from our invited speakers. We’re going to be talking about some of the challenges and promising solutions to support working families, businesses and care providers in returning and staying employed as part of the ongoing economic recovery. So just as a reminder, please feel free to use the Q&A function at the bottom of your screen. We will have time after the panel discussion to engage some in live Q&A from all of you, so looking forward to that.
At this time, I’d like to welcome our panel to the stage. We have Cheryl Miller, executive director at the Oregon Home Care Commission. Dr. Michael Olenick, president and CEO Child Care Resource Center. April Sims, secretary treasurer, Washington State Labor Council, AFLCIO, and Lilia Vergara director of human resources at Dr. Bronner’s. Thank you so much to all of you for joining us today. So first I want to start just the conversation with getting a lay of the land. Where are we currently and where have we been? So, Michael, I want to start with you because childcare seems to come up so often in these conversations and on the heels of Nicolas’ presentation, it feels apt to start with the topic of childcare. Can you help us understand the state of the sector over the past 18 months and where are we currently with these childcare provider businesses?
Okay. So let me give you just a little bit of background, Child Care Resource Center is a resource and referral agency that also provides subsidy to about 40,000 kids across Northern Los Angeles county and San Bernardino county. So we actually comprise about 12% of all of the children being paid for by the state in terms of low-income families that need childcare. Childcare breaks down into a number of subsets. So you have the home care piece, which are both licensed family childcare facilities, as well as family, friends, and neighbors. And then what people mostly think about are centers. And most of the centers work with children between the ages of three and five. And then you have preschools, which are part-day programs. A lot of schools run them. There’s quite a number of private providers that run them. And then you have school-aged childcare, which is usually about a half a day. Sometimes it’s in the morning before school and after school. Many schools run after school programs that are by a third party, and then you have centers like the Boys And Girls Club. So people complain that our system is really very complicated and it really is, but that’s because we’ve got kids between the ages of zero and 12 that we’re dealing with for the most part, and kids of different ages have different needs.
So most of the babies, zero to three are taken care of by family, friends and neighbors, or they’re taken care of by a licensed family childcare. And during the pandemic, at the height of the pandemic, about 50% of those programs stayed open. The centers dropped to about 20% because of all of the rules about social distancing and barriers to keep groups together and all those kinds of things, and the fact that with parents out of work, they didn’t need as much childcare. A lot of those programs closed and slowly started to reopen. So family childcare is about at… 90% have reopened. And I say that center-based care is probably at about 80%.
Now, having said that, in the last couple of months, community care licensing reported that they had 4200 applications for new licenses and 4200 licenses that were dropped in California with 1800 programs out of that 4200 that had not dropped their licenses, but had not reopened yet. And so there’s still a struggle in terms of being able to reopen programs. We run Head Start programs, which are for really low-income kids. We have about 25 centers and every week somebody comes in with COVID at some center and then we have to close for a week or two. So it’s really unpredictable in terms of what’s going on and makes it really difficult for parents to have stable care during this time. So I think that gives you a little bit of a snapshot about how things are going. It’s getting better, but it’s not there yet.
Thanks, Michael. Yeah, unpredictability seems to be the theme of the day when it comes to COVID. So appreciate those remarks. Cheryl, I want to turn to you, same question. Can you give us a sense of how things have been in the home care sector and how are the provider businesses faring currently?
Sure. The Oregon Home Care Commission is a semi-independent state agency and the commission has nine commissioners. Five of them are actually people who receive in-home services. And I want to let you know that because the perspective that we come from is a provider perspective and a consumer perspective. And you really can’t separate the two, because if you have a trained qualified worker, you have someone who’s getting essential, good services, and they receive all the supports that they need. So when I saw this question, I thought back to March of 2020 and how we all were literally almost in a panic thinking that the way we do business today suddenly changed overnight and we needed to put some things in place so the system could continue to run. And so the first thing that we really realized is that the home care workforce is an essential workforce. They’re the boots on the ground. In Oregon, the people that they support are individuals who receive in-home services paid with public funds. So that’s Medicaid or state funds.
And in Oregon’s case, many individuals in other states that are in our in-home program would be in a nursing facility. And so that’s the level of care that the home care workforce provides in Oregon. We didn’t realize that we cannot do this work in isolation. We had to suddenly become more collaborative with our programs. We worked with three different programs with the Labor Union, in order to ensure that the work force had what they needed. So they needed to be prioritized. They were the first group to receive vaccines. They needed to get information about personal protective equipment and how to access it. And we needed to get that information out quickly. We spent a lot of time actually working on changing how we communicate to the workforce during this time. It used to be email and snail mail, now it’s text messaging because we can get that information out quickly.
In the middle of the pandemic in Oregon, we had fires, we had an ice storm and in each of those cases we needed to… And we had a heat wave. So we had to notify workers quickly. You can now take your… Don’t worry about it, if you haven’t had any authorized hours, extra hours, we’re going to pay for them. So you can get your consumer employer to a cooling center, you can support them in any of these emergency centers that came up. So it was moving quickly again and working in partnership. The other thing that happened during that time, not only priority access to vaccines, accessing PPE, but we offered CARES PTO to workers who were impacted by COVID-19 and maybe had couldn’t go to work because they had to care for a family member or their child didn’t have school or childcare so they could access CARES PTO. We partnered with the Union Carewell Benefits to support the workers in that process and offered that to them. So again, our focus was not only serving the consumer, but also the worker in making certain that they had the things that they needed. Workers are covered by workers-compensation. So if they unfortunately were exposed in the workplace, then they were eligible for… We would help them file a worker’s compensation claim.
The other critical thing is we were no longer able to provide in-person trainings, and so all of our certifications have a requirement for CPR and first aid. And so what we put in place is we extended their certifications so that workers would not lose their higher wage during this cut COVID 19 season, where they did not have access to CPR first aid training classes. So we have continued to do that through today because our state is still closed and we have not reopened. And so we continue to do that along with the extension of background checks. So everything we did was to try to keep that worker whole during this process.
Thank you, Cheryl. I appreciate that. And it’s helpful to be reminded about the spectrum of care that’s needed across the entire life course. I think that’s such an important part, making sure the conversation is really covering all aspects of care that are needed.
So April, I want to turn to you and hear about how these issues around care have been impacting your union members. What have been some of the impacts to workers across different sectors and industries and how are they dealing with these issues?
Thank you, Laura. And I also want to thank president Daly for inviting me to be a part of this important conversation, I’m really looking forward to learning from my fellow panelists today. Just by way of introduction, I’m April Sims. My pronouns are she and her. I have the privilege of serving as the secretary treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, which is the largest labor organization in Washington state representing over a half a million workers and nearly 600 different locals and affiliates. And so, our members work in every industry in this state and we have been working in partnership with the Washington state apprenticeship training council to survey workers in the trades, specifically construction and manufacturing, to hear their stories of how childcare is affecting their ability to complete their apprentices or apprenticeship programs, given the locations and the work hours that are demanded for these workers.
And so I want to share some of those results with you, but before I do, I want to lift up that this is a worker issue. We often couch the issue of care or childcare as a women’s issue, but it is absolutely a worker’s issue. And it might surprise some of the listeners today to learn that two thirds of the respondents to our survey were men. And what we learned as a result of that survey is that approximately 63% of Washington workers live in a childcare desert, which means that there is low or no available childcare services. Formal childcare is prohibitively expensive, even for workers earning well above the minimum wage. There is a real misalignment between when trades workers need the care and when care providers are available, and parents in the trades rely largely on informal care arrangements, such as spouses, family, friends, rather than using paid childcare centers or home-based providers because of the cost and the availability of care.
But when we talk about union members and workers, I think it’s also important to lift up childcare per who are also union members and are also workers. And that these professionals are often some of the lowest paid workers and are largely women, immigrants, and people of color. And so we can’t just fix the problem by reducing the cost of childcare so that it’s more affordable. The solution is really in investing in meaningful infrastructure that reduces the cost and raises the income. So it’s a twofold approach. And I think that we really have to start talking about childcare as an infrastructure issue if we really want to have a robust economic recovery that centers all workers in the solution.
Thank you so much, April. And that brings us actually to the other side of this conversation. So we’ve covered workers, and now we want to talk about employers and businesses. So Lilia, I want to turn to you, can you tell us first about the workforce at Dr. Bronner’s, but then also, how has the pandemic and the need for care impacted you as a business? And I know you’re the head of HR, so how are you thinking about these issues from your perspective as an employer?
So Dr. Bronner’s is the top selling soap company in the US in the natural market. So as you can imagine, during the pandemic, the need and the demand for soap and hand sanitizer, it was crazy. And so since we manufacture here in Vista, California, we literally had to get it together quickly when all this hit back in March of 2020, really establishing full-on full second and third shift to just be able to deliver this demand that our country and our world needed at the time. So there was a lot that went into this. When we talk about the pandemic and how different jobs were affected, we were actually meeting those individuals that were laid off, so we actually were able to benefit from being able to get some great talent during that time, but from a childcare standpoint, because as you know, the different conversations that we’ve had with the childcare challenges that many parents were facing, we weren’t immune from that. Our parents were facing the exact same thing, parents, both remote and onsite employees needed childcare. And so that became a big challenge when the childcare centers were closing or their established provider, whether it was a family member or a neighbor are now saying, “We need to isolate, I can’t take care of your child.” So that even created a bigger issue for parents that at one point had childcare and now didn’t.
So we were able to partner up with different companies and really increase our childcare program and really remind employees at this existed, because if they had somebody that was taking care of their child, they may had heard of it, but they didn’t really pay attention to it because it wasn’t relevant to them at the time. But here we are 2020 when the pandemic hit, it was very relevant. And especially, even with parents that were at home, you would think, oh, well, it’s easy. Everybody’s at the house. Well, a lot of these parents had to work. And so it wasn’t like you could sit in the little corner over there and work, and your child’s at the house, you still had to be available.
So tapping into that, having two full-time jobs and not just two full-time jobs at different points in time, they were going on at the same time. So it was very difficult. So we definitely were hearing this from our parents, because we did a lot of surveys asking our employees what their concerns were during the pandemic and consistently childcare was the number one concern that they had and just the stress level around that. So I can definitely hear what all of the panelists were talking about, because our employees were facing that too.
And just to tap into what April was saying about our parents, our challenge with this dilemma, right? But here’s where companies have the opportunity to really show up, really show up in a way to appreciate their staff, show them that they care and really start really looking at how can we make this social requirement really, because if you’re working, you need somebody to take care of your children, and what better way to do that as to partner up and come up with programs to ensure that the children of your employees are safe and that your parents could come to work and be their best self and not have to worry about what’s going to happen with my child, are they in the safe place? So I think this is a great opportunity where a lot of great change can happen. We just all I need to really push that forward.
Thank you, Lilia. It’s so helpful to hear your perspective as an employer and the importance of this for the people that you’re employing. So thank you for raising that. And I want to keep building on some of the themes that April raised, but Michael, I’m going to turn to you about this question because I want to talk about the economic situation with childcare workers, and April raised the issue about low wages for many of these workers. So can you share what you’re seeing currently for childcare workers around issues like wages, job vacancies, and whether the recovery has affected the ability of childcare workers to start to bargain or ask for wages and benefits?
I think I’ll start with the third question first, which has to do with the bargaining piece. After 15 years, the combined forces of SCIU and, what’s the other one, April? The one that you work for?
ASME. Thank you. All of a sudden I blanked out in that one.
I got you covered, Michael. Don’t worry about it.
Thank you. Good, good. So anyway, they joined forces 15 years ago and started working to try to get collective bargaining rights in California for primarily family childcare providers. And when Governor Newsom came in last year, he actually signed a bill allowing the labor unions to collective bargain and they did their collective bargaining for the first time this last spring, right during the budget season at a time when the state it was flush with a lot of money. I mean just the largest amount of money I think we’ve ever seen in the state of California that’s going into the state budget.
So they were able to get for pay rate increases of about 15%, which still is not great. They’re still pretty low wages for providers because they’re based on the 2018 regional market rate, which is based on what parents are able to pay. And then there’s a big survey that’s done every two years. But the state is going to pay a little bit more for those kids who are being subsidized by the state. Now, most children are not subsidized by the state and the ability of private providers to be able to raise their wages is dependent on what the market will bear in terms of what parents can afford to pay. And if you look at what it costs to run a program and what parents can pay, it’s pretty upside down. Parents can’t afford to raise the prices, which makes it very difficult for programs to raise their rates because they can’t get parents to pay it.
And so it’s a, how do you break that cycle? The build back better bill would make the market not be so important in terms of what parents could pay and then the feds would make up the rest of the payment. So you’ve got that going on. At the same time, you’ve got minimum wage, which has been increasing in California for the last couple of years. I just raised the wages of all of our hourly employ employees by about eight or 9% just to offset what the cost of minimum wage was going to inflate everybody’s cost by. But we still have teachers, we have about 60 teachers who are making about $20 an hour. They can’t afford to pay for their own childcare, let alone what parents can pay.
So it’s never been a valued program in this country. And April said something about apprenticeship programs. The apprenticeship folks never wanted to allow for childcare people to be apprentices, because they said they wouldn’t be able to earn enough money after they finished their apprenticeship program. That has changed this year, but I think we’re really quite a ways away from paying what providers and teachers need to earn in order to be valued the way that we value virtually everything else. And I think a lot of that is tied up in the fact that most of the people that are providing care for low income kids and all that are black and they’re brown and you’ve got the systemic racism. We just don’t want to pay for it because we don’t value people. So I’ll get off my soapbox, but we’re not paying people enough and it’s not going up radically anytime soon.
Thank you for sharing that, Michael. And Cheryl, I want to pose the same question to you in thinking about wages and benefits for home care workers. And I wonder if you could share what the Oregon Home Care Commission has been working on with some of the unionized home care workers in the state, and if you could share what some of the key labor issues were and how those are being resolved? Cheryl you’re on mute.
I should probably provide some context. The Oregon Home Care Commission was established back in 2000 by ballot Measure 99 in the state of Oregon. We are actually in the Oregon constitution, but the group that was the impetus behind that measure was SEIU Local 503. And so I think that can help in understanding the partnership that we have. The Oregon Home Care Commission is the employer of record for collective bargaining purposes, and the home care workforce in Oregon are public employees for bargaining purposes only. So they’re not state employees, they’re public employees for bargaining purposes only. And so we are one of four non-state bargaining units, and I’ve been doing this work since 2006. So I’ve seen our wages increase over time because of that. So we have some key issues here in Oregon that we value it’s wages, training, benefits. I have to say those are the top three. We have some subsets of safety, accommodations, providing training and supports and other languages. And we do have a diverse workforce, women, men, people of color, immigrants, refugees. That’s who you see in our workforce. And so we just finished negotiating our contract at the end of September. And it was ratified earlier this month, just the 12th, I think was the day it was ratified.
And so we had some big wins for workers in this contract. Our base rate of pay was $15.77. It started out with this current contract at $15 an hour, but we offered retirement benefit through a retirement program that’s available in Oregon to everyone called OregonSaves. So we added 77 cents per hour to the workers so they can contribute that amount to the OregonSaves Fund. So that happened, our next raise will be 90 cents. That will be in January 2022. I just was out at the coast this past week for a vaccine incentive program for the workers. Now I had the opportunity to really speak to a lot of workers. One of my questions to them was, “Do you have your Professional Development Certification?” And that’s because if they have that certification through the Oregon Home Care Commission, they will earn 50 cents more for every hour they work for any consumer.
So it’s not tied to a condition, across the board, 50 cents more. So then we began having discussions about that raise coming in January. If they have their PDC, once they get that raise in January, they will be at $17.17 an hour. And they were like, “Whoa.” I go, “Do you want to leave that money on the table? Or do you want to get all the money that the union bargained for you?” And when you said it like that to many workers, they’re like, “Okay, I need to get that training.” We also have an Oregon Senate Bill 1534 passed by the Oregon Legislature, which required all workers to have a baseline of training that was implemented in September of this year. So any worker that was existing as of August 31st needs to take that training or have one of the Home Care Commission Certifications.
So we’re encouraging workers to take that refresher training, they’ll get paid for that. Come to the Home Care Commission, take the Professional Development Certification, they’ll get paid for their training hours and they’ll get the increase in pay at the end of the day, they’ll get CPR and first aid paid for them. And so that’s one way that we’re really dealing with that. In January 2003, they’ll get a $1.10 raise that will increase the wages to $17.77. And then if they have PDC, they will get 50 cents more. We have other certifications. If you work with the consumer with enhanced care needs, that individual receive a dollar more per hour when working for that consumer that can be stacked with the Professional Development Certification. So then you get a $1.50 an hour. If you work with someone who uses a ventilator and is experiencing quadriplegia and you complete the Oregon Home Care Commission VDQ training, that worker will receive $3 more hour. That one’s not stackable, but they’ll get that $3 differential.
If they’re a personal support worker, working with someone with an intellectual or developmental disability, and they take the exceptional training, that includes a required behavioral training, that worker also will receive $3 more per hour. So our certifications lead to pathway of higher wages for the workforce, and really it’s incumbent on the worker to take advantage of it. If I was a home care worker, I’d have my PDC, I’d have enhanced, I’d get exceptional. I’d become a personal support worker. We also provide community health worker training and job coaching training that also offers additional higher wages for the workforce. The other benefit that’s really exciting that we negotiated with the union on it’s the hazard pay. Workers in Oregon that have worked since March of 2020 through the spring of this year will receive in December, right around the 1st, a little bit over $2,100. And we are happy that we could offer the workers this benefit.
I’m already getting calls from workers like, “When is it coming?” And we really wanted it to be in December. That was something we committed to because, hey, it’s the end of the year, it’s Christmas time. And this will really benefit a lot of workers. The next thing we negotiated is holiday pay. So we’ll be rolling out some holiday pay in 2023, I think is what we agreed to it. So workers in Oregon have these higher wages, hazard pay, retirement benefit. And also if they work 40 hours or more a month, they’re potentially eligible for medical, dental, vision, EAP benefits, and the union also offers some other benefits including paid time off for the workforce.
So you heard me talk about CRES PTO, which is different, because that was really tied to COVID-19. And then they also have access to regular paid time off. And usually what workers do if they need to take time off then they submit a request to Carewell Benefits. And then they process that. And then they have regular times during the year that they cash people out with their pay time off benefit and they could save that for when they do need to take time off.
Those are the highlights. I could go on more because a lot of more exciting parts of that contract, but you guys don’t have all day to listen to me.
No, thank you Cheryl, for providing just a comprehensive overview of all of those different, additional benefits and trainings, that’s really helpful to understand. So I want to pick back up on a theme that I’ve heard coming up in different parts of our conversation so far, and that’s the issue around equity and how it’s relating to the care sector and how it’s relating to the economic recovery. So April, I want to start with you and can you comment, are you seeing areas where the economic recovery has been uneven or where groups are being left out of the recovery and as part of that, what risks do you think that these disparities pose for the economy more broadly?
Those are such great questions. Thank you, Laura. Cheryl, congratulations on ratifying your contract. I know what a big deal that is. I would say that largely women have been highly impacted in the recovery. I think we’ve talked about that. Traditionally, women are seen and used as care providers for the entire family. I think if you add to that, that more than 140,000 care providers, according to a CNN report have been killed in this COVID-19 pandemic.
I think what we’re seeing is that many women are looking at continuing working from home. They’re continuing to look for like work from home options to better help balance the need for childcare and the desires to continue in the workforce when and where they have the option. So I think more employers need to be open to options or continue to be open to options for work life balance for women.
But what I think is most interesting about childcare and why tackling this is so exciting is the many intersections of the work. Especially as we look at this through an equity lens. We’ve already discussed that most care providers or mostly women, immigrants, people of color. And when we start to change the narrative and we start talking about these workers as the professionals, that they are much along the lines of what Cheryl was talking about, about this Professional Development Certification, we can raise the standard for these workers and that’s really what equity is about.
And I think in terms of the economic recovery, we’re talking about a profession that is both growing rapidly and can’t be outsourced or automated. So investments in infrastructure or rather the infrastructure that’s needed is just good for a healthy, holistic economic recovery, because we can invest in an industry that is growing and that we know can’t be outsourced or automated and we can really work to make sure that these professional workers have the respect and the high standards that they deserve.
Thank you, April. And Lilia, I want to turn the same question to you. If you can comment about putting an equity lens on this discussion. What are you seeing from the workers that you work with and those issues from Dr. Bronner’s standpoint?
Yeah. Well, from our standpoint, we have all levels within our organization. We have manufacturing that are on the floor and then we have whether they’re accounting or marketing that can work from home. So I could definitely see that there’s some roles that there’s not much we can do. They have to be on site, but the challenge has been the same to find that top talent, regardless of the level of the position, whether they’re entry level or of a professional level, finding that top talent has been a challenge.
And a lot of it we believe is because those candidates out there are really trying to find that balance of what’s going to work for them, whether they want to have that balance at home and just have that flexibility. So one of the things that we’ve continued again, talking to our existing employees to make sure we’re able to retain them, but also just get a good idea and a good pulse of what’s happening of those that are working from home is really listening to them.
And a lot of it has to be flexibility. A lot of them are asking for just some flexibility. So we, as an organization are really going back to the drawing board and seeing what do these hybrid models look like. And for those that are on site, what is that going to look like for them? And how much flexibility can we really do? So that’s an ongoing conversation. And sometimes it’s a case by case that we are looking at. So really just not being close-minded of how we used to do things and how it used to work, even 18 months ago, we are really looking ahead because this isn’t going to be a quick fix, but one of the things that we’ve also have continued and have made it a point is to make sure that nobody’s feeling like they’re left behind.
So that stems all the way from our benefits. Making sure that all of our employees receive the same benefits. Nobody is getting anything more because you’re at the top or you’re in management or you’re remote, everything is consistent. And so that is something that we are looking at as an organization to make sure that there’s that equity even within… once you are an employee, that you’re going to be getting the exact same thing, along all the other employees. And so we’re hoping that is also going to help with the retention of our staff and as well as being able to attract that talent, because like any other company we’re also looking for talent and that’s just another key area that we can focus on.
Great. Thank you. I want to come back and talk more about business considerations. So we’ll come back to you soon, Lilia but I wanted to give Michael and Cheryl a chance to weigh in on the equity considerations and thinking about who might be left out of the economic recovery and what can we do to ensure that we’re really bringing everyone along. So Michael, I’m going to start with you and then we can go over to Cheryl.
So I think I’m not muted anymore. Okay. So I guess I have two different lenses to look at. One of which is as an employer, we’ve really moved to looking at what positions could be remote? What did the workers want in terms of how they wanted to work? And we’re determining that actually quite a number of our employees would rather work remotely. And because they’re working mostly with families that they’re kind of setting their own schedules and working hours that work better for them.
I’m not sure I’m being entirely legal because the state requirements in California are, you work eight hours a day and you take a break at the fifth hour for lunch and you take two, 15 minute breaks. And when people are working remotely, it’s hard to keep track of that. So that’s one piece of that. In terms of some of those earlier slides that we saw about women not coming back to work so much is a lot of people are working non-traditional hours, they’re working evenings, they’re working weekends.
And if you think that the childcare issue is difficult for people who are working a regular 9:00 to 5:00, Monday through Friday, it’s even more difficult for those people who are working non-traditional hours. And I think that they’ve really not been able to engage in the recovery as much because of that, that they can’t find care in many cases for that. So I think I’ll let Cheryl go on from there.
Thank you. When I think about equity, I’m also thinking about Workforce Development. And at the Home Care Commission, we addressed that in a couple ways. We have a customer relations team and that particular team, my focus has been to make sure it’s a diverse team. So that team includes folks that speak Somali, Arabic and Spanish. That really helps us to connect with our workers from those immigrant refugee groups that are in the workforce.
And we don’t want them left behind. I talked about a lot of the changes that have happened. And with that group, we can quickly translate a message, get it out through a text message. They build relationships with the community. In fact, just about all three of them, there’s two people that speak Spanish, but in particular, the persons that speaks Arabic and Somali, they’re already community leaders. So when they communicate out information, it’s widely dispersed among the community.
And so we want to continue to build relationships with our immigrant and refugee communities. These are the folks that we get worried about being left behind. We even focus specific training cohorts that are language specific so that these workers can get their Professional Development Certification and earn a higher wage. But with Workforce Development, we have a Workforce Development website first of all. We have videos in other languages. So we can recruit people from workers and consumers, but we’re working on taking this a little further and developing a pre-assessment tool, not to rule people out, but to help people determine if they’re a good fit for the job. And then they can decide if they want to move forward and apply. And we want to do this electronically through our DocuSign and get their information sent out.
So that’s one thing is working on Workforce Development, creating social media ads that don’t look like they’re coming from a government agency, but look inviting that someone would like to really take advantage of this opportunity. In many parts of Oregon and I’m really focused in Oregon. People think it’s all Portland, but Portland is a large metropolitan area in Oregon. And you get down to Eugene and maybe Medford. And after that, you’re looking at rural coastal Oregon. And so often these jobs are some of the higher paying jobs in communities and we have a need to increase that. So we’re also looking men, recruiting more men into this workforce. We’re looking at young adults who just graduated from high school and have an interest in going to the healthcare field and reaching out to them. And so that’s how we keep the balance.
And we also hire individuals from immigrant refugee communities to be our trainers so that we’re not having an interpreter. So you don’t have to go to your class and listen to somebody to talk, then listen to the interpreter, we want to get out of that mode. And so we’ve been actively doing that for years and we have Iraqi instructors who supported our military in Iraq, and we have people who have immigrated from Venezuela.
And so it’s just really exciting. Somalis who have immigrated here as well. And so Workforce Development, and then also just actively working to support the diverse workers that we have. When it comes to economic recovery, we’ve managed to continue to have workers during this time. And we’ve brought on new workers through this time. We could bring on more, but I think we’ve been a viable option for people who want to have more time, manage their time without having to clock in 8:00 to 5:00. They can negotiate with the consumer employer, what are the good times and their availability. And they can manage their work themselves to work around maybe childcare needs and that kind of thing.
Great. Thank you. I appreciate everyone’s comments and thinking about the different dimensions of gender and race and all of the different equity issues that are really part of this conversation. So I appreciate that. Lilia, I want to come back to you and think about the perspectives again of businesses and employers. So what do you think businesses need to keep in mind for the long term and the future when it comes to attracting and retaining workers?
Yeah. So just to piggyback on what Cheryl was saying, I think a huge piece of it is really growing and developing your staff, especially those frontline employees and really taking a look at how can they move out of those roles. So they have what they have, a little bit more leverage when it comes to moving around within the organization, having more flexibility within their schedule. So definitely training is something that’s key. So if employers can continue to do that and just recognize that, that’s going to be a plus at least from a retention standpoint.
But one of the things I keep saying when we talk about the issues that we’re facing with just the childcare and retaining and attracting that this talent that we so desperately need is that we’re paying for it somewhere already. Whether it’s the overtime, whether it’s your employees that are quitting because they’re burnt out.
And just the consistent turnover, them being absent all the time, even workers come clean. So the list can go on and on. So we’re paying for it somewhere. So here’s where I get really excitied when we talk about employers and really being able to look at it from a lens of what can we do to really make this issue where we can help our employees, because everyone talks about how important their employees are, how they’re their priority and how they love them. This is a time we could start showing it, especially when it comes to the childcare for our parents. And there’s a lot of resistance and I get that, but here’s a time where we can really, really move the needle. And if this is a possibility within the organization to really stay on top of that and pursue it because you’re paying for it somewhere.
So why not do it in a way where you can now have this extra benefit, whether it’s having a childcare assistance program, having a more flexible schedule, really looking at positions on what can be done from home, or is there a hybrid model and just having that flexibility. So you can keep those top employees. And at the same time, that’s also going to attract that talent that hopefully is going to want to come back into the workforce.
But these are things that we can easily adjust and we can do because you’re paying for it already. And if you really take a deep dive on some of the expenses that you’re having as a business, they’re there. So if you’re able to shift that cost, and yes, now you’re going to look at it as an expense or as a benefit expense. So be it, the money is already being spent. So why not do it in a more positive way and being able to have this as an enhancement for your team and just really take that approach that you’re caring for your people and really you’re there for them. And I don’t know if this is just more because of the all one model that we have at Dr. Bronner’s and that we treat employees like family. Like this is a time for our employee lawyers to really step up and really make that shift, and not just the childcare side, but also on the compensation side, the benefits that they offer, being able to truly provide to your staff and really take care of them. So you want them to show up, then you also need to show up. So it’s a give and take. It’s a lot I know I just threw out there, but it definitely are things that employers really need to really look at, and yes, it’s going to be a difficult conversation, especially if you’re looking at the bottom line and the profits. But those profits aren’t going to be there if you don’t make changes and that change needs to happen. So it’s just time to decide what are you going to do?
Thank you, Lilia. I really appreciate that. Before we transition to Q&A, April, I wanted to give you a chance to weigh in here as well, from the perspective of, what are you hearing from your union members about their needs, things that you think businesses and employers should be aware of based on what you’re hearing from your members?
Well first, yes to everything that Lilia said, I wish that we had more employers that took that perspective in terms of their workers. I think workers are looking to be able to continue in the workforce, but I also think they’re willing to exit it if they need to meet the needs of their families. And so options for extended childcare hours, working from home and or financial assistance to help fund childcare providers should be part of the conversation. You know, we believe that those closest to the problem are also closest to the solution. So businesses should provide their workers with the voice. And I’m a labor leader, so it’ll come is no surprise that I believe that union representation is the best vehicle for the kind of collaborative relationships that yield meaningful results, like the results that we’re talking about in this conversation.
But, there are a number of solutions that the workers we surveyed in Washington state lifted up or identified as solutions that might work and or were a good idea. A 77% of our respondents said that tax credits might work or were a good idea. 71% suggested that subsidies would be helpful. 69% thought employer trust funds would be helpful or might work, and 57% identified childcare on job sites as a potential solution. But I think what I want to lift up, and I don’t want to leave this conversation without saying explicitly is that the solutions that we’ve identified are not resolved just through collective bargaining, although that is certainly one tool, I think we need a holistic policy solution. And I think workers and employers really need our government to step in and start to fund childcare in the same way that we fund other infrastructure. If workers need it in order to work, it’s part of the infrastructure. And so we just really need a real policy solution and the kind of solution that only government can help with.
Thank you so much April, and to all our speakers, we’re going to transition now to Q&A. So thanks to folks who have put questions into the Q&A box and have been up-voting. So our first question is what role does increasing the wage scale for childcare providers’ play in this discussion? Much like the in-home care providers for older adults, childcare workers are at the bottom of the wage scale. And speaking of older adults, how much does care giving for elderly parents play into this conversation? I’ll open it up to whoever would like to answer.
Well, the question about older adults and caring for elderly parents, in Oregon, you can be a child and get paid to provide services for your loved one, your parents. So that is open and available. I don’t know if it’s like that in other states, but we have a lot of family caregivers who are also paid providers in the state of Oregon. So that’s part of her question.
So the part about wages for childcare providers, I think I talked about that a little bit in terms of it being related to what the market will bear in terms of what affordability for parents is. And one of the proposals at the federal level right now is limiting the cost that a parent would pay to 7% of their income up to the 250% level of their income. So when you do the math on that, that would actually make it affordable for parents, and it would also take the market out of it to some degree, which would allow for the private sector, which does a lot of the childcare to raise their prices, because it would no longer be attached to parents’ ability to pay. So I think that that’s one thing that actually could be a really interesting piece.
Somebody put in the chat something about employer supported and I think several of my fellow panelists have talked about employers supported and you run into a couple of issues there, which is if you build a center on site, if you have a large population of childbearing employees, can you build enough childcare to fulfill all of their needs or not? And we saw this in the 90’s where we had a lot of employers look at providing their own facilities, and then they would have waiting lists and then people would be upset because they didn’t get in. And then you had people who had older family members that they were taking care of and how come they didn’t get something to take care of their older families. And then what about those who didn’t have any children and didn’t have any seniors, what’s the benefit for them? So I can see you’re shaking your head. I mean, it’s not so simple. But I think that affordability for parents would be helpful that might… If there was a tax credit that then could be applied to your costs and so that providers could raise their rates, that would be a one way to get there.
The only other way to do it is to go back to what happened during World War II, which is the government paid for lots of childcare all over the country at decent wages for the people providing the care because of the war effort, and it was all women who were making all the munitions. And so you saw that they paid for that. As soon as the war ended, almost all of that went away. So either the government gets into to this in a big way, rather than sort of nibbling around the edges or gives credits to businesses to fulfill that. We’re seeing an increase in number of businesses that are trying to provide some sort of childcare benefits, it’s up to about 40% of businesses are thinking about it. So I think that those are some of the ways that we do it, but it’s a lot of money and people don’t want to spend a lot of money. So I’ll stop there.
I’m sorry, Cheryl. I don’t mean to talk over the top of you. I think the one thing that I think I want to lift up in this conversation is that historically, domestic workers and agricultural workers were left out of the NLRA, which passed in the 30’s, so while other professions were able to make economic gains through collective bargaining, domestic workers and agricultural workers were left behind. And it isn’t until recently in the last couple of decades that these care workers have been able to organize and collectively bargain. And so I think what we see, in terms of these low wages is largely tied to the fact that they haven’t been able to negotiate like other professions have. So that’s the one thing that I want to lift up in this conversation and then go back to, as we start to talk about these workers as professionals and give them the professional credibility that they rightly deserve, we change the narrative and that will lead to, I think, more respect and higher wages for these workers.
You’re absolutely correct, April. For the home care workforce, they fell under the Department Of Labor back in about, I think it was 2007 or so that they moved there. They’re eligible for overtime, I didn’t mention that, but that became a struggle for the state because of our payment structure. So we have a cap, we have caps on the amount of overtime that you can work, but this workforce does have access to over time. But I start to speak again because I had mentioned earlier that there are four non-state bargaining units in Oregon, and the other ones are related to childcare. I am not on those bargaining teams, so I can’t speak specifically to them, but I can tell you, you can easily find those contracts. They do have training benefits, wage rates included also. And they also just recently ratified, I believe, their contracts are close to it. So SEIU represents the providers that are in-home childcare providers and ASME represents the in-home, the childcare agencies, that’s the way I would explain it. And so you might find some more details there. And I’d be happy, Laura, to send you links to those, if that would be helpful for some of the participants.
Great. Thank you. Yes, we can definitely share those when we report up. So Lilia, I want to bring you into the conversation and I want to give you a chance to… I saw you nodding pretty vigorously during Michael’s remarks. I want to give you a chance to elaborate there further, but there was a question for you specifically, did your company provide childcare on site for workers?
We don’t, that has been a huge conversation. And I think this even started when we started the program back in 2015, it’s the convenience of having it on site, especially because we start our first shift starts as early as 5:00 AM and just the availability for most providers or at least public providers that’s not really available. So that’s been a conversation we’ve had for some time, but due to space it just hasn’t happened. But I think that is a topic that is going to continue. So hopefully we’ll move the needle on that one as well. But part of the conversation also led to, when we were talking about having an onsite childcare was, how many children do we really have eligible for this program? And are we going to see a shift of this wave of employees that want to enroll their children? And what is that going to look like in the next five years, 10 years? Are we going to have all this empty space if we continue to grow this program? So, that was part of the conversation.
And similar to what Michael was saying is that that exact same topic has come up amongst our employees on, okay, well, I don’t have a child. This is a benefit I’m losing out on. I mean, we pay up to $7,500 a year for childcare for our parents. So that’s a lot of money. And so they’re like, “I would like to tap into something where I can still gain that in a benefit of some sort.” So they’ve been very creative, if they have had a senior parent or an aging parent that they have to care for, they’ve asked something similar to that, which we are also reviewing… or “I don’t have access to that. Is there anything else I can get?” So, as a company, you have to decide where do you draw the line and what are we trying to do with this benefit? So those exact topics have come up with us. We’re not exempt from what employees want and wanting to ask for more. So I don’t know if I answered your question with all that, but we have talked about having onsite centers, but it hasn’t come to fruition just yet.
Thank you for sharing that, Lilia. So our next question is, have you seen a difference between fee-based providers and primarily subsidized providers and their resilience in the face of the pandemic? And I think this would probably be for Michael or Cheryl. Yeah, Michael I see you.
I don’t think that I have seen a difference. It really breaks down in terms of childcare, it breaks down the type of care that you provide in terms of resilience during the pandemic. If you were caring for eight children or 14 children, somewhere in there in your home, you were more likely to stay open than if you were in a center based program, which has a different sort of fee structure and all that. The subsidy part doesn’t really make a difference because we pay only up to 75% of what the maximum market rate is, and so we’re constrained by that, but I think it has more to do with the type of care that you’re offering, as opposed to how you’re receiving funding.
Yeah. All of our providers are Medicaid enrolled providers, so there’s no difference in how they’re funded and paid for. So I wouldn’t be able to speak to the difference based on that question.
Okay. Thank you. We’ll move on to the next one. This person asks, “Many positions require minimum qualifications to be met, like at the local state and federal levels. Can you please discuss how setting minimum qualifications would be achieved at the equitable and diverse perspectives?”
Well, Oregon just did that through Senate bill 1534, we required all workers to have a baseline of training. And what that means, is that before you even enter the workforce, you need to have an orientation. And how it’s equitable, first of all, the required training is provided by CareWell Benefits, which is part of RISE Partnerships, which is part of SEIU. There’s a trust. April talked about trust, this is a trust benefit. And so they’re providing that training and the Home Care Commission approves the curriculum. So we require that the training is offered in other languages, in other formats. If a person doesn’t have access to a computer, then they need to receive that training material in a different manner so that they can access it. If they need somebody, an interpreter to talk with them because their reading level is not that great because they may be new to our country, and maybe their language isn’t written. So we provide every accommodation possible for folks, including ASL interpreters. So that’s how you ensure that everyone who needs to access to training will have access to it.
So on September 1st, all new people have to go through orientation. Then within 120 days, they need to take a core training. What I already said applies to the core, it’s an online and webinars training, but again, other formats are available if a person cannot access it in that way. And then they have of continuing education requirements. If they were an existing worker, they have to complete a refresher training by March 31st, 2022. And again, we provide all that in other languages and that’s the way you ensure equity. It takes work, it costs money. I remember the first time when I advocated for workers to get applications translated. I remember the pushback I received, how much money that’s going to cost, but over the years, the fight was worth it. And now we see it’s integrated into our collective bargaining agreement into everything that we do now. Now people are thinking about, did you translate it? But it’s a committed effort that you have to make to ensure that equity and inclusion is part of all the work that you do.
That’s great. We’ve got about two minutes left. I want to give each of you your final thought to share with the group today. You’ve got about 30 seconds each. So your final takeaway that you really want to leave with this audience, Michael, I’m going to start with you.
Well, I think the business needs to step up and make a commitment to their employees and to their employees’ children and help make the difference. And that goes everything from advocating for this is a federal… We need to do something at the federal level and we need to do something at the state level and really support children and families because that’s what keeps the economy running.
Thank you, Lilia, how about you?
Just to echo that, I really feel that if you’re in a position within an organization to truly present and pursue some of these benefits to really help your employees. We always talk about how they’re our number one priority. This is a time to show it. And also thinking through on a long term, how the state and federal government can really get involved to really make this a viable option for parents to really be able to use some of these benefits.
Thank you. Cheryl, your 30 seconds.
Sure. This is a collaborative effort. You’ve heard me talk a lot today, and some of you might have thought that I represent the union, but I don’t. I’m the employer record, I’m on the labor side, but this shows what collaboration and partnership does. And it happens not only at the state level with Oregon Department of Human Services, from the governor of Oregon and from the federal level, but we’re in this together. And that’s what I’ll leave. We’re in this together.
Thank you. And April, you get the final word here.
Well, I want to thank my fellow panelists. I’ve learned a lot today. I think what’s most exciting about this conversation is that the solution to this will result in economic, social and racial justice, and I think that means it’s incumbent upon workers, employers, and our government to work together to find a holistic solution. So I’m really excited to be a part of this conversation. Thank you so much for inviting me today.
Thank you. Well, thank you to all of the speakers. This has just been a really terrific discussion. I appreciate the work you’re doing in your own communities and your willingness to come share in this dialogue with us today. So thank you. Thank you to our viewers for sticking with us to the end. We’ll see you later. Thank you.