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Thousands of kids losing child care coming October 1
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Budget hardball in Sacramento is just 32 days away from pulling the plug on child care for over 2,000 children from struggling families in Manteca, Ripon, and Lathrop.

Unlike in past budget impasses, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger this time around excluded state funding of committed contracts for subsidized child care from continued funding until such time a spending plan is put in place.

Two umbrella agencies that have made it possible for single moms and other parents to get off welfare and secure jobs - the Family Resource & Referral Center as well as Creative Child Care Inc. - have had their funding dry up. Both agencies have already slashed staff to account for the revenue fall off. If the budget standoff lasts until Sept. 30 both agencies have no choice but to shut down programs.

The Family Resource & Referral Center secured a $2.7 million line of credit to continue paying providers for care that has been delivered. The borrowed money runs out on Tuesday. Starting Sept. 1, the agency will start issuing IOUs to care providers except for those involved with stage one of the Cal WORKS program.

The delay impacts 4,242 families with 12,530 children. Complicating matters is action by the legislature that could also defer payment for stage one of the CalWORKS program. Should that happen 6,848 families with 15,545 children and $2.74 million a month in provider payments will be impacted.

Should nothing happen in the coming weeks Family Resource & Referral Center Executive Director Kay Ruhstaller expects the closure of day care centers and family day care homes will accelerate significantly.

“It is going to mean a lot of mothers won’t be able to go to work further putting pressure on government assistance programs,” Ruhstaller said.

Also impacted are low-income families that are able to barely avoid needing to receive other forms of government assistance as the subsidized child care keeps them financially afloat in lower paying jobs.

The trickle down impact of the payments being withheld by the state would translate into higher unemployment in San Joaquin County, the loss of day care infrastructure, and the loss of 15,545 children’s access to programs that do more than provide day care as they have structured programs that help prepare them for school.

“Our (school performance) scores are already in the dirt in San Joaquin County,” Ruhstaller said. “This will not help. What makes it worse is that this was all avoidable.”

Both agencies operate structured programs through child care providers to prepare kids to learn who are from demographics that normally struggle in school.

Ruhstaller noted that child care providers took hits in last year’s budget and are willing to agree to up to $330 million cuts in the current budget being negotiated

Creative Child Care Executive Director Debra Eison is frustrated the state found $52 million to build a new death row at San Quentin Prison this budget year but couldn’t keep the safety net for vulnerable children in place while the budget was hammered out.

She also noted that putting pressure back on families to find other places for the kids while they work will likely create stress and has the potential to put kids in unsafe situations. that in turn will create more pressure for Children Protection Services which has already sustained cutbacks.

Creative Child Care has been forced to close three child care centers including one serving Manteca Unified. That eliminated services to 369 children, forced the laying off of 90 teaching and administrative staff, as well as IOUs being issued to 23 family child care homes.

If funds don’t arrive by Sept. 30, services will be discontinued to another 886 children with 84 percent of those from working families dependent on childcare to continue working.

Another 209 child care staff will be out of work with 11 landlords losing tenants and other suppliers such as food vendors losing business.

Both Eison and Ruthstaller are asking people to contact state representatives urging them to restore funding plus press city land county leaders to apply pressure to Sacramento as well.