First 5 Santa Clara Rescues Calworks Stage III Child Care
SAN JOSE -- FIRST 5 Santa Clara County, responding to pleas from legislators, has agreed to step into the breach created by the Governor’s cuts to the Stage III CalWorks program and loan up to $3 million to keep afloat childcare subsides that enable local working parents to stay on their jobs and get off welfare.
“Everyone owes a giant ‘thank you’ to FIRST 5 Santa Clara County for stepping up and lending us their dollars to help thousands of parents and children in our community who were facing a crisis created by a lame duck Governor,’’ said Assemblymember Jim Beall, chairman of the Human Services Committee. “FIRST 5 Santa Clara County has come through when we needed them.’’
In partnership with Assembly Speaker John Perez, Beall had contacted FIRST 5 Santa Clara County, the local commission for First 5 California, and county social service officials to explore the possibility of FIRST 5 temporarily funding child care for Stage III families.
“Today’s action stops the bleeding,’’ said Jolene Smith, executive director of FIRST 5 Santa Clara County. “In the coming months, we will be meeting with our partners to develop a transition plan to identify more stable child care slots in the event the Legislature does not restore funds. It allows parents to breathe a bit easier. But, we cannot yet forecast what may happen beyond January.’’
With its pledge of funding, FIRST 5 Santa Clara County becomes the first local commission to fill the day care funding gap in its jurisdiction. The money will go toward maintaining day care for children age 5 and younger. Talks are continuing on how to fund day care for school-age children who are in the Stage III program.
Earlier this month, the Governor made a $256 million line-item veto to kill the program, which is the final step that leads families off welfare. Funding for child care subsidies were scheduled to terminate on Nov. 1. Parents participating in the Stage III program have jobs and receive no cash assistance except for a child care subsidy from the state. The size of the subsidy is calculated on a sliding scale based on the parent’s income.
Leaders in the Assembly and state Senate have pledged to introduce a bill on Dec. 6, the first day of the legislative session, to restore $250 million of the veto. The bill requires only a majority vote since it is considered an appropriation for educational purposes. Money from the appropriation will be used to repay any bridge loans made by local FIRST 5 commissions to backfill Stage III childcare provider payments missed by CalWorks.
Last week, the Assembly took $6 million out of its own budget to help fund Stage III child care.
“Without FIRST 5 Santa Clara’s intervention, hundreds of parents here would be placed in the position of deciding whether to keep working and leave their children unattended or quit their jobs and watch them,’’ Beall said. “Many of them would have probably quit work and many day care providers would have had to cut back their staff, putting even more people out of work.’’
FIRST 5 Santa Clara County is one of the 58 county commissions that comprise First 5 California, which collects money from a 50-cent state tax imposed on packs of cigarettes. The revenue is used for the benefit of young children and families through a comprehensive system of education, health services, childcare, and other programs. FIRST 5 California then distributes that money to its local commissions.