Parents worry about future of state childcare program

December 31, 2010 5:51:28 PM PST
This is an uncertain New Year's Eve for thousands of Bay Area parents. They do not know whether they will have state-funded child care after the first of the year.

Pittsburg's Tamra Loomis and her two young sons are among 900 families in Contra Costa County that could lose their state-funded child care as soon as next week.

Called Calworks Stage 3, the program is designed for parents whohave successfully moved from welfare to work.

A single mother, Loomis has worked as a graphic designer for two years.

"We don't know if we're going to be covered or if we're end up having to quit our jobs and get on cash assistance, we have no idea," Loomis said.

In October, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger cut $256 million in funding for Stage 3 care. A judge then ordered the state to continue paying for the program until Dec. 31.

In Contra Costa, the organization First 5 also stepped in with money to care for children up to age 5 through Jan. 31.

Now, child care advocates hope the legislature and new Gov. Jerry Brown restore funding for all Stage 3 families before the reprieves run out.

"This is as much an economic issue as anything else, it makes absolutely no sense to put 80,000-100,000 people out of work," Contra Costa Child Care Council spokesperson Kate Ertz-Berger said.

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Walnut Creek, co-authored one of two bills lawmakers will consider.

"This is a really good program, it provides high value and it gets to people to be able to sustain themselves with a little bit of a leg up," he said.

The parents who rely on Stage 3 child care hope the governor and the legislature act quickly, before they are forced to take desperate action, like quitting their jobs

"Obviously I would have to get back on cash assistance, which to me makes no sense because obviously they'd be paying more for that than they would for just the assistance in child care," Loomis said.

Lawmakers are expected to take up the Stage 3 bills as soon as next week.