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Grover Beach, SLO offer help to parents who need child care 

With schools on the Central Coast starting up from a distance, there's a growing demand for all-day child care, a safe place for working parents to leave their kids instead of the classroom. But not a lot of child care providers are offering such programs, and those that exist tend to be costly. Grover Beach and San Luis Obispo are trying to help.

MEETING DEMANDS As Grover Beach works to launch a program that would help working parents pay for childcare during the COVID-19 pandemic, the city of SLO is expanding its own before and after school programs to run all day. - FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • File Photo By Jayson Mellom
  • MEETING DEMANDS As Grover Beach works to launch a program that would help working parents pay for childcare during the COVID-19 pandemic, the city of SLO is expanding its own before and after school programs to run all day.

Grover Beach is working to launch a program that would help working parents pay for child care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the program, Grover Beach plans to distribute $50,000 in one-time general funding to two child care providers—The SLO County YMCA and the Boys and Girls Club of South SLO County—funding the providers will then use to offer financial assistance to families in need.

Kathy Petker, director of the Grover Beach Parks and Recreation Department, said both the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Club are two of the few organizations that have offered all-day child care and education support programs for school-aged children through the pandemic.

"Both of these organizations are the leaders in child care regulations and are completely familiar with all of the COVID operations and standards and regulations," Petker said at a special meeting on Aug. 24, where Grover Beach City Council discussed the coming program.

Both child care providers also already have efficient systems in place for identifying families in need of assistance and awarding them with tuition scholarships, so Petker said it'd be best to leave that process to them.

Monica Grant, CEO of the SLO County YMCA, said her organization has been offering COVID-19 compliant child care since April, when it launched Camp CARE, a program that provides kids in grades K-6 with a place to go and educational support from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, if their parents work and their schools are closed due to COVID-19. That program, which costs $175 a week and is offered at three sites in the county, had about 150 participants in the spring. Grant said the YMCA already has 102 kids enrolled in Camp CARE this school year, about 37 of which attend the camp at Harloe Elementary School near Grover Beach.

The YMCA offers financial aid to families that pays for anywhere from 20 to 100 percent of the total cost of enrollment, and Grant said the funding from Grover Beach would help more families get the help they need.

"If you're running COVID-complaint child care these days it has to be a subsidized program," Grant said at the Aug. 24 meeting. "So we have been obviously getting grants and support from a variety of sources to support our efforts, and those will continue to be needed even when school goes back into session, if not more. I think we all believe that there will be a second wave, possibly, of layoffs coming in the community, sadly, and that there'll be more need, not less."

To meet the new demand for all-day care in SLO County, the city of SLO is expanding its TK-6 child care program so that it will look similar to what's offered by the YMCA and Boys and Girls Club.

SLO's Parks and Rec Department has long offered before- and after-school programs for school-aged children, according to Parks and Rec Director Greg Avakian. But a recent survey of parents with kids enrolled in the San Luis Coastal Unified School District found that about 66 percent of 449 respondents are in need of some form of child care this fall. About 44 percent said they'd need all-day care.

The city's new program, according to a city staff report, will run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday (two-day, three-day, and half-day options are also available) at a rate of $200 a week and will be offered at three sites in San Luis Obispo. The city has allocated $43,000 of CAPSLO payments and San Luis Coastal Unified School District facility savings to use as a scholarship fund for parents in need.

For now, the program will be open about 130 kids, and Avakian said those whose parents are essential workers will be prioritized.

"Child care for years has been a challenge," Avakian told New Times. "We've never been able to meet the full demand of our community. We've always had a waitlist, and our lottery system was our fairest way of providing services for our community." Δ

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