Brown Budget To Slash $750 Million From Child Care
The Shardars are angry. They recently learned that despite finally getting jobs, after a year of hunting, they might have to give up their recent employment to take care of their young daughter because of the governor’s budget cuts to subsidized childcare.
As Angelenos struggle to find work and recover from the recession, another round of blows is certain to knock the poor and parents alike farther down into a pit of despair with the governor preparing to cut a drastic amount of funding that provides for the city’s youngest victims. Our children.
After being unemployed for over a year, Dario recently found work as a night cook in a restaurant in downtown Los Angeles. Jazma has just completed her second week of work at an upscale Beverly Hills hotel as a car valet.
Dario and Jazma Shardar are a married couple whose only option is to use subsidized childcare for their 4-year-old daughter, Bella.
“I have no idea what I will do for my daughter while I am at work if this budget is approved,” said Dario Shardar, 29. “I cannot afford to pay to take her somewhere else right now and I don’t know anyone who I trust to take care of her. I am really worried.”
His wife, Jazma, 32, is angry about the budget cuts to childcare:
“My husband and I just finally found work so we can eat and live without having to worry about where our next meal was coming from, now we have to worry about our Bella?” said Jazma. “What does Jerry Brown expect us to do, quite our jobs to take care of our daughter? It makes no sense.”
Every afternoon, before the Shardars go to work the night shift at their jobs, they drop Bella off to the Dubose Family Day Care in Van Nuys. They made sure to choose a day care that was close to where they live and it is subsidized by government programs.
The governor proposes $750 million in childcare cuts, which equates to cutting funding for each childcare slot by 35 percent.
California’s childcare programs, such as the Child Care Alliance, provide safe and affordable childcare that helps low- and moderate-income parents find and retain jobs. These programs typically enroll more than 300,000 children per month.
Qualifying families may receive childcare if a child is under the age of 13 and parents have a need for care because they are working, seeking employment, or participating in a training program. Families in the CalWORK’s welfare-to-work program as well as low- and moderate-income families who are not enrolled in CalWORK’s may receive subsidized childcare.
Also a part of the childcare cuts is the reduction of income eligibility from the 75th percentile to the 60th percentile of the State Median Income (SMI).
More than 1,000 families would no longer be eligible for subsidized childcare services, possibly affecting another 1,500 children. These families are the closest to achieving financial independence, but still need the additional support of childcare subsidies.
Childcare, especially for Los Angeles’ poor population, is more important than ever as parents struggle to find and retain jobs in the aftermath of the recession.
More than 1 million Californians have been looking for work for at least six months. According to the Employment Development Department’s 12-month averages ending in the month of November in 2010, about 1,025,000 Californians are looking for work.
These proposed changes are even more devastating to these families when you consider the cuts in other services for the poor, which have also been proposed to close the gap in the budget, as well as previous cuts to programs and reductions in reimbursement rates for childcare providers, which were put into action in 2010.
As it stands now with the amount in childcare funding, many eligible families lack access to childcare due to funding constraints. Case in point, nearly 188,000 children were on childcare waiting lists across the state in June 2010.
The funding constraints are not only hitting the families and children but also the people who work at these programs. Without the proper funding, more childcare programs need to close down. This puts increased pressure on remaining childcare programs employees. As the number of these workers has decreased, the number of childcare cases has remained high.
The Child Care Alliance is just one agency that handles cases where low to medium income families can get assistance in obtaining subsidized childcare.
“We are forced to take on more cases of families and children needing assistance in our programs because other childcare programs shutdown,” said Child Care Alliance Executive Director Cristina Alvarado. “That makes us work too many overtime hours which can lead to mistakes being made, such as fraudulent cases slipping through the cracks.”
Alvarado says that people try to defraud the childcare system by applying for this assistance when they do not need it. These fraudulent cases deplete government funding, which otherwise would be used to help children on these waiting lists.
With the budget cuts growing near, the whispers around the childcare office will get louder, Alvarado said. She said it is unclear of how the program she works for will be able to operate on the most basic level when the cuts are put into action.
“Times are pretty scary with what is going on with the budget,” said Alvarado. “I hear the whispers in the office about the uncertainty of the Alliance’s future and the futures of the thousands of newly employed workers who depend on us.”
This report is part of our special series, California in Crisis, which explores the personal, local ramifications of the state budget debacle. Please click here for more.
Reach Jennifer Whalen here.