VISTA, Calif. (KGTV) -- The average cost of child care in San Diego can range from $980 to $1,400 a month for a child under 6, according to the California Child Care Resource & Referral Network, and that can take a huge bite out of a family's monthly budget.
However, one local company is putting thousands of dollars back into employee pockets. Ron Martin is one of those employees.
“Coming here was just a game changer for us," said Martin.
Martin started work three years ago as an automation technician at the headquarters of Dr. Bronner's, maker of the top-selling organic soap with the famous label.
“We're a two-income household in San Diego. Even with two incomes it was difficult to go month to month just budgeting and finding where we can cut just to make ends meet," Martin said.
That is, until Ron came to Dr. Bronner's and found out the company offers thousands of dollars a year in child care help.
“Now with this child care assistance we can put money aside to purchase a home, for the kids future with college tuitions and for our own retirement," Martin said.
Dr. Bronner's Human Resources Director Lilia Vergara says with some "outside the box" thinking, Dr. Bronner's launched the benefit before the pandemic.
“It started in 2015 when we did a survey and found out that our parents were stressed about where their kids were going to be while they were at work," Vergara said.
Back then, parents could get up to $5,000 a year. Then, the pandemic hit and parents were feeling it.
“That was the number one concern and stressor that parents had, so we said let's increase that to $7,500 a year," Vergara told ABC 10News.
Right now, about 30 employees are tapping into it. Vergara said Dr. Bronner's has paid out more than $117,000 this year, up from $67,000 in 2020.
When asked how surprised she is that more companies don’t do this, Vergara said, “I'm not surprised because it's very costly.”
But she points out it’s also an investment that can help a company run like a well-oiled machine.
“The cost of this benefit could offset a lot of the cost some of these companies already have that they may not necessarily attribute to, like turnover, employees being absent or worker's comp expenses," Vergara added.
While parents work, Dr. Bronner's pays half for any care setting their children are in, including private school. Martin said that lifts a big burden and not just for him.
“With the children too, not only us financially and our mental health but their mental health, because they could stay at the school where they've been since they were 2 years old," said Martin.
One core company principle is "treat employees like family" — something that extends to other areas as well including pay, benefits and perks. Vergara said, “We treat employees like family and so this is something you would do for your family.”
That gives Martin more time with his family, wife Nicole and kids Shelby, 9, and Maverick, 4.
“I don't have to get a second job, so yeah, I am spending more time with my family and I'm spending less time mindfully with those stresses,” he said.
About working at Dr. Bronner’s, Martin said, “People have been here 30 years. I plan to be here that long until I retire.”
Other companies including Intuit, Bank of America and Best Buy, offer help with backup child care or discounts and reimbursements for child care. Many, like Dr. Bronner's, have partnered with Tootris, an app that connects parents with convenient child care options.
Vergara said even after the pandemic, Dr. Bronner's child care assistance will stay.