Governor Terminates Child Care for Poor Californians

Governor Terminates Child Care for Poor Californians

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Even after Arnold Schwarzenegger moves on from his job as California’s governor, at least one decision he made in the final stretch of his tenure will have a lasting impact on tens of thousands of children and working families.

Earlier this month he slashed $256 million in funding for a childcare program. At least 55,000 children, including 8,000 in the Bay Area will be affected, as their parents are left to agonize about the future of their employment.

The families will lose their subsidized child care provided through a program, leaving them scrambling to find other options or risk losing their jobs. The program, known as CalWORKs Stage 3 Child Care, was intended to support families who graduated from the state’s welfare-to-work program, and no longer receive cash aid. The governor vetoed the child care money, along with $700 million for other programs, from the newly passed state budget.

Child care is expensive and without a subsidy it is almost impossible for low-income working families to afford it. Depending on the number of children who need care and their circumstances, families can pay hundreds of dollars a month for care. I have an autistic son, and although my child care subsidy was not affected, there are many parents with special-needs children who require intensive one-on-one care and special accommodations who will be left in freefall.

I know firsthand how difficult finding the right childcare placement for your child can be, especially if they have special needs. Many people have been using the same providers for years and many of the home-based providers are very close to the families they serve. Many childcare providers, who will also be impacted by the cuts, often times go out their way to help families, who need all the help they can get. Unlike many center-based child care providers, home-based childcare providers are flexible about drop-off and pick-up times can accommodate parents who work graveyard or swing shifts.

“The Governor does not understand the challenges of working families,” says Kate Ertz-Berger, executive director of the Contra Costa County Child Care Council. “By cutting Stage 3 funding, the governor has taken away the continuity of care and early education that gets children ready for school and puts their parents’ jobs at risk. It will hurt our community.”

“I was a victim of this budget cut,” said Renita Wilson angrily. The 31-year-old is a hardworking mother of two girls in grade school. “I don’t know what I am going to do, or how I am going to work now. I have not received CalWORKs benefits for over eight years and now that I can’t pay for child care, I may be forced to quit my job and re-apply for aid.”

Like Renita, working parents who lose their subsidies will be forced to choose between their job and child care.

The governor has made it clear that he does not care about the needs of struggling working families in California. The families that are affected by these cuts have gotten back on their feet and transitioned off of cash aid and now support their family through gainful employment. They will now be forced to go back on cash aid or worse; a life of crime in order to put food on the table, a roof over their children’s heads, and clothes on their backs.

What will these parents do when they are unable to take their children to their providers on November 2? How will they explain to their bosses that they will no longer be able to work because they are unable to afford child care? It is evident that the governor doesn’t give a damn about taking food and shelter from tends of thousands of children in California who rely on these services day to day.

Even though the subsidized child care program doesn’t officially end until November 1, childcare payments under the program have been suspended since July 1, due to the budget impasse. That means many providers have not been paid for their services for the past three months. I have a new provider and she contacted me about receiving payment last week, so we both called the Child Care Council and were stunned to know that no one has been paid for their services since the summer.

“I do not know what I am going to do, if I am not paid soon,” said Jackie Collins, a home-based daycare provider who lives in Pittsburg, Calif. “I am at risk of losing my house because I have used all my resources and dried up my savings account, just to pay my mortgage and buy food because I have not received payments from the child care council for the three children I watch.”

According to the Contra Costa Times Newspaper, “Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles) announced a proposal this week that would go around the governor and restore funding to the program until a new governor takes office in January, reports the Contra Costa Times. In the meantime, tens of thousands of families are left in limbo and scrambling to find other options.

By slashing its funing, Gov. Schwarzenegger didn’t just kill the program, he killed the hopes of tens of thousands of working families who have dreamed of and fought to overcome poverty. He’s forcing them back into the same circumstances that they worked so hard to escape.

Apollonia Jordan, 25, is a freelance journalist and staff writer for the San Francsico Bay View newspaper. She was born and raised in Bay View Hunters Point, and now lives in the East Bay, where she is studying speech pathology.