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June 2, 2023

Childcare providers demand support for Pajaro flood victims

Dozens of childcare providers from around the Central Coast joined forces with parents, community members, and elected officials in a rally Saturday morning in Watsonville Plaza to demand that Gov. Gavin Newsom bolster funding for providers and ongoing flood recovery efforts for Pajaro families.

“We urge the Governor to follow the lead of the Assembly by putting forth solutions that will ensure families, especially those hit hardest by recent disasters, can access childcare, and we, as providers, can keep our doors open,” said Victoria Marta, a Pajaro childcare provider and flood evacuee. “We’re coming together to march to demand urgency, and to keep the recovery challenges on the forefront. Pajaro families are still in desperate need of support.”

After a series of speeches, the group waved signs that read, “Union Home & Childcare,” and “Child Care Providers Unite,” marching along Main Street and chanting “Providers united will never be defeated,” and “Si Se Puede (Yes We Can).”

Hortencia Anya has been providing early education for children at her daycare center. She grew up in Watsonville and earned a bachelor’s degree in cultural anthropology from UC Santa Cruz.

Anya said she was evacuated from her home for 30 days due to the flooding and lost her only source of income.

“We have not received any aid from anywhere though we are responsible for so many children,” she said. “It is a very big responsibility. We take care of about 98 kids in Pajaro but we are not considered a business. But we are considered daycare providers at the same time.”

Veronica Diaz said she has been a childcare provider for 20 years and lives in Watsonville.

“We are out here today because the need for childcare is increasing and we need to sign a contract for every single provider,” she said, adding that while local families are unable to afford childcare, providers are also struggling to keep their doors open. “Care can’t wait. We cannot overlook the dire needs of our Pajaro community, who are still recovering. We must prioritize a recovery that does not leave any family members behind.”

Organizer Victor Gamiz of SEIU 521 added that providers point to the recently announced Care COLA proposal from the State Assembly, championed by incoming speaker, Assemblyman Robert Rivas, as an example of the type of support and urgency needed. The proposal aims to bolster California’s childcare system, Gamiz says, in an effort to stabilize the industry and help parents struggling to find providers.

Tarmo Hannula
Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.

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