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A proposal to ease childcare woes is on the ballot in Monterey County

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Doug McKnight
/
KAZU News
Monterey County voters will decide the fate of Measure Q, which aims to increase access to childcare.

Many parents in Monterey County struggle to find affordable childcare. The Measure Q ballot measure this election attempts to offer a solution, but not all are convinced.

Like much of the U.S., California is in the midst of a childcare crisis, with many parents struggling to find affordable daycare options. In Monterey County, a ballot measure aims to alleviate the issue with a new tax on land owners.

The Safe, Affordable, Quality Child Care Act, or Measure Q, would charge landowners a yearly flat tax of $49 for each parcel of land they own. Supporters say the act would raise about $5.5 million annually — money meant for childcare. But opponents argue the measure isn’t clear about exactly how the money will be spent.

But Salinas-resident Pricilla Amao says child care is essential — and too difficult to find.

"I was completely oblivious to the situation prior to becoming a parent myself," she said.

Amao says she looked for a full year before finding an option she could afford. And she’s not alone. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 28,500 children under five years old live in Monterey County. But, childcare facilities in the county only had about 10,100 spaces as of 2019 — supporting only about a third of the county’s children.

"This is an attempt to really help fill that gap, that void in our community and support families," said Monterey County supervisor Chris Lopez, who helped create the measure. If approved, Lopez said Monterey County supervisors would appoint a 15-person citizens committee to oversee the Measure Q funds.

But many critics of the measure say it’s too vague.

"I fear that it will create either a slush fund or gobbled up into some other bureaucracy," said Prunedale resident Rosemarie Barnard. She also said the parcel tax is unfair to landowners, and that it would effectively make housing more expensive.

“Whether you're a property owner or a tenant, it's going to affect the cost of living,” she said.

With so few childcare options available for parents like Pricilla Amao, it's now up to voters to decide whether Measure Q is the right way forward.

Jonathan Linden is a reporter at 90.3 KAZU in Marina, California. He joined KAZU in October 2022 and had previously reported for fellow NPR-affiliate KVCR in San Bernardino, California.