The number of Contra Costa households using CalFresh food benefits reportedly rose by more than 40 percent during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, an increase of about 13,700 new households. Despite the level of need, expanded CalFresh benefits ended in February 2023.
Meanwhile, nearly 90 child care providers in Contra Costa County closed permanently during COVID, resulting in up to 2,000 fewer available child care slots, which ultimately impacts early childhood education, parent workforce participation and family finances.
These are some of the grim findings of a new report (see below) from Children Now that has prompted the relaunch today of the Contra Costa Children’s Leadership Council to “address inequities in the county,” officials said.
First launched in 2019, the Contra Costa Children’s Leadership Council is led by First 5 Contra Costa, the Employment and Human Services Department, Contra Costa Health Services, and the Contra Costa County Office of Education. All organizations are joining forces to “develop and strengthen the ecosystem that recognizes and supports child, youth, family, and community resilience and wellbeing.”
The Council will hold a public convening on June 21 inviting service providers, professionals, elected officials and others working in the child/family space to participate in the process.
The Children’s Now report highlights problems exacerbated by the pandemic that persist even as pandemic assistance programs come to an end, officials said. The report was produced with funding from the Dean & Margaret Lesher Foundation, Contra Costa Economic Partnership, and First 5 Contra Costa. Based on its findings, the Council is urging the county to quickly and efficiently deploy resources and supports to close opportunity gaps for children.
“The Children’s Leadership Council strives to serve as the big tent for everyone working to improve the lives of children in Contra Costa County,” said Ruth Fernández, First 5 Contra Costa executive director. “The Council will be an opportunity for all child and youth serving organizations and stakeholders to work together to solve local challenges, while putting equity at the forefront.”
John Gioia, chair of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, joined the Children’s Leadership Council in 2019 and said the pandemic “exposed and widened” the disparities.
“We need to work together to create a proactive system-level approach to addressing the inequities in our community, rather than being reactive,” he said.
For more information about the Children’s Leadership Council, visit the Contra Costa’s Children’s Leadership Council webpage.