At the end of last week, Governor Schwarzenegger impacted thousands of families when he used his power of line-item veto to cut funding for Stage 3 Childcare through CalWorks, a program designed to help families who have transitioned from welfare and need the extra help to stay off of welfare. The cut will take $256 million from the program and put it instead in a fund meant for state reserves meant for “bad budget years” – in other words, saving it for “a rainy day”. Families affected by this sudden change are only being given two weeks to make other arrangements. For many, this change is devastating.
What exactly is the Calworks child care program, and why do we need it? It’s a program designed to accompany the welfare-to-work program, allowing families to be able to afford child care so that they can work and eventually get off welfare. The CalWorks child care program is split up into three stages. Stage 1 begins when a family enters the welfare-to-work program, receiving CalWorks cash assistance. Each family is eligible to stay on Stage 1 for up to 6 months, or until their work activity or child care becomes stable. Child care in Stage 1 is paid for by CalWorks funds with little to no payment required from the family. When Stage 1 has been completed, families then transition to Stage 2. Families in Stage 2 have stable jobs, their child care is secure, and they are transitioning off aid*. Child care in this stage generally requires a partial payment by the families, depending on their income and family size. Families may stay in this stage for up to 24 months after CalWorks cash assistance has ended. Stage 3 is the final stage, when a family is now off of cash aid and has received childcare for the maximum 24 months*. It is that extra help to ensure that the family has success in continuing to work and be off of welfare by keeping their childcare costs attainable. The cost to each family depends on their family size and monthly income. The assistance mostly lasts until the child is 12, though many families decide they no longer need it sooner than that.
I pause here to do a little math lesson. Beginning November 1st, numerous families will no longer receive assistance with their child care if they are Stage 3 families. The average cost of child care is $600 or more a month, per child. To receive state funded cash aid, a single parent with two kids must make $1,921 a month or less (Poverty levels described by Dept of Health Care Services). Let’s say this single parent was now making $2,100 a month, before taxes, no longer qualifying for welfare. Take out roughly 15% for taxes, and she is bringing home $1,785. Her rent, thanks to being in low-income housing, is $900 for a 3 bedroom. She now has $885 leftover for food, gas, and bills. That’s definitely doable. Except she needs childcare for both of her children who are under the age of 5 so that she can continue to work and stay off of welfare. But with cuts to the 3rd stage of the CalWorks program, this mother will be forced to take her children out of daycare since she can no longer afford it. Without anyone to watch her children, this mother is now unable to work and is forced to leave her job. Without work, this mother must now receive welfare to be able to feed her children and keep a roof over her head. Oh, and because she lives in low-income housing, her rent has just been decreased to match her income, the state and/or county picking up the slack. And along with cash-aid, this family must also receive Food-Aid and/or WIC to be able to survive, as well as receive grants towards their PG&E through government funded programs.
This is not to mention the daycare provider, who has now said goodbye to a large percentage of children who can no longer afford to be in their care. This means a substantial decrease in the daycare’s income. If they have more than one worker, they must downsize because they can no longer afford to pay the additional salaries. If it’s a privately owned daycare, this may cause them to be forced out of business. More job loss, more people needing the state’s help, more cost to the government.
This is not to mention the parent who is in school, trying to get a better education so that they can provide a better life for their family without government assistance at all, who now can’t attend classes because they can’t afford daycare for their children.
This is not to mention the state workers who will be losing their jobs since nearly half of their caseloads include Stage 3 families.
So tell me, how much money will cutting Stage 3 benefits from the budget really save the government?
Over 575 children and 350 families in Sonoma County are now faced with losing their child care effective Nov. 1st. Does this budget cut affect you or someone you know? Are you looking for ways to fight back? Parent Voices, a group that advocates for quality and affordable childcare, is organizing a fight against this veto, and requires YOUR help. Yesterday, Parent Voices met at Santa Rosa’s State Building to ask state representatives to call a special session to overturn the Governor’s veto of CalWORKs Stage 3 child care. Today, they are requesting that you call, fax, and email your legislator in their local office and Sacramento office and ask them to: “restore the funding for Stage 3 child care slashed by the Governor with his blue pencil veto. Elimination of Stage 3 child care threatens parents ability to work, jobs for child care providers and our economic security.” Tell them how YOU will be impacted if you lose your child care Nov 1, 2010.
Visit http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/yourleg.html to find the contact information of your Legislature representative.
This Friday, Oct. 15, members of Parent Voices will be caravanning to Sacramento to Senator Steinberg’s office, asking him to call a special session of the legislature to overturn the veto of Stage 3 child care. There will be an informational meeting today and tomorrow at 6:00 pm at the Santa Rosa 4Cs (131-A Stony Circle, Suite 300, Santa Rosa) to prepare for the trip to Sacramento on Friday. Bring rain gear to wear to the Friday sit-in, in accordance with “The Rainy Day is NOW!” theme.
THIS is a bad budget year. THIS is where our money needs to be. The rainy day is not tomorrow, or next year, or sometime in the future. The Rainy Day is NOW.
*Note: It was previously stated that those in Stage 2 were no longer receiving cash aid, and that Stage 3 was after someone had been off of aid for 24 months. It has been corrected to show that those in Stage 2 are transitioning off of cash aid, and that those on Stage 3 are no longer receiving cash aid.