Child Care Cuts
Budget crisis—and stalling in Sacramento—hit parents when they’re down.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
California’s budget crisis threatens to put more people out of work at a time when unemployment has reached historic highs.
This time, the budget stalemate has hit Monterey County’s working poor, who serve up food to tourists, clean private homes and staff cash registers at local big-box stores, and who depend on subsidized child care to keep their kids safe while they’re on the job.
State-subsidized child care centers, which serve hundreds of local kids, are struggling to stay afloat because they haven’t been paid since June, when this year’s budget impasse began.
“We have to be here so [parents] can go to work and boost the economy,” says Shannon Watkins, whose company, Early Development Services, runs eight local centers that depend on state funding.
At an EDS center in Seaside, a handful of pre-schoolers look on as a day care worker tends blooming squash plants in a vegetable patch, while others sit at a tiny table stacking building blocks.
If it weren’t for the center, mother of two Elsa Aguilar says, “I probably wouldn’t have accepted my job.” Aguilar has just returned to work at Cal-Safe, where she cares for the children of teen parents.
First Five Monterey, a tobacco-tax-funded program aimed at boosting early childhood education has stepped in to ensure that local child care centers don't go bust. The organization has arranged for lines of credit to float three local child care companies until the state passes a budget.
But that doesn’t mean Watkins and the parents she serves are in the clear.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger originally targeted state-subsidized child care for elimination as one way to close the state’s $19 billion budget gap. Although the idea has gained little traction, the program still faces cuts.
And the late budget means that Watkins has already racked up tens of thousands of dollars in bank fees, which will likely cost the center a staff person.
“I don’t think people realize what not passing a budget is doing to people,” she says, adding that legislators shouldn’t be allowed to leave Sacramento until they come up with a spending plan.
“I don’t know if there’s any way to hold them accountable,” she says.