The city of Sacramento is offering free child care for first responders, health care workers and city employees who must continue to go to work during the coronavirus outbreak.
The program, starting Monday, will be offered in eight community centers across the city, according to a news release from Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Councilwoman Angelique Ashby sent Friday. To start, there will be 350 slots open for children ages 5 to 12.
Children will be kept in groups of 10 or fewer to prevent the spread of the virus. Groupings will not change and will be kept in separate rooms, Ashby said.
“We will also do our best, I say this as a mom, to program them with social distancing in mind,” Ashby said during a City Hall press conference Friday.
Parents can apply through an online portal starting Friday and instantly learn if they have secured a spot, the release said. On Monday, parents will be required to show identification to prove they are a first responder, front-line health care workers or an essential city of Sacramento employee, the release said. Priorities will be given to parents in that order, Ashby said.
The centers will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, staffed by licensed city employees who normally work in the city’s 4th R and START programs, who have been out of of work since the schools closed.
“These are folks already finger printed and background checked to work with children,” Ashby said.
The program will likely be expanded based on demand, and could double, Ashby said. Participants are asked to bring their own meals in the first few weeks, but snacks will be provided.
First responders are police and fire staff, and front-line health care workers are those who work with patients, Ashby said. Essential city workers include those who run the water treatment facilities, those who operate the traffic lights, garbage and recycling collectors, and others, Ashby said.
Parents with children under age 5 can go to the YMCA’s W Street facility, which has 60 free slots available, the release said. Child Action Inc., a local nonprofit, has also identified 50 paid slots for low-income families.
Centers that will offer childcare include Sam and Bonnie Pannell; Belle Cooledge; George Sim; Oak Park; Coloma; Hart; Joe Mims Jr.; Hagginwood; and South Natomas, the release said.
Fewer than 183 of the licensed 2,000 child care centers in the city have closed, Ashby said.
“The folks running those child care centers are our heroes in this time,” Ashby said.
The rest of the community centers are now closed, starting Thursday evening. The city has not yet determined uses for them, but some could be used for child care if the program is expanded, Steinberg said.
“Thank you to all the city workforce who has worked so hard to normalize a very abnormal situation,” Steinberg said. “ Hopefully this new childcare service, which will be free by the way, will allow first responders and health care workers to do their jobs without having to worry if children have somewhere safe to be.”