FIRST 5 LA MOVES TO AVERT LOCAL CHILD CARE CRISISOctober 28, 2010
|LOS ANGELES-----In response to the elimination of child care for nearly 7,000 children whose parents have successfully moved off welfare, the First 5 LA Commission today approved up to $15 million in transitional funding to restore a CalWORKs child care program for Los Angeles County's youngest children.
The Commission acted to avert a local child care crisis triggered by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's veto this month of $256 million from the "welfare-to-work" program. First 5 LA will grant three months of transitional funding for CalWORKs Stage 3, which provides child care assistance to families, many with working parents who have been off CalWORKs cash aid for more than two years.
"It is crucial that First 5 LA respond to the many families facing this child care crisis," said Marvin J. Southard, who is vice chair of the First 5 LA Commission and director of the County of Los Angeles Department of Mental Health. "Without reliable child care, many hard-working parents in low-income households may lose their jobs altogether, forcing their families back into poverty and depriving their children of quality care, preschool and other crucial early learning opportunities."
There are three stages of CalWORKs, the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility for Kids program, and each stage has different qualification requirements for parents. In L.A. County, CalWORKs Stage 3 Child Care provides subsidies averaging about $530 a month to families in need of the aid to keep their children in safe, supervised settings while parents work or attend school. The First 5 LA award will fund the program for three months beginning in November, covering the cost of child care for enrolled children ages 0-5 in L.A. County.
"I commend First 5 LA for stepping up to help avoid a crisis for these families and for the child care providers whose doors might otherwise close," said state Assembly Speaker John Pérez, who earlier this month identified $6 million in the Assembly's operational budget that also could be shifted to help bridge the Stage 3 funding gap.
Under the law, the state and county First 5 Commissions, including First 5 LA, may fund programs only for children age 5 and younger and their families. Even with assistance from county Commissions like First 5 LA, the CalWORKs Stage 3 Child Care program will lack sufficient statewide funding to cover child care costs of children age 6 to 13 beginning Nov. 1 unless additional resources are found.
"The Assembly will keep working with the state's First 5 organizations and other concerned groups to obtain additional funding until we can send a bill to the new governor in January that fully restores the money for this vital program," Speaker Pérez said.
According to the Child Care Alliance of Los Angeles, which represents the 13 Alternative Payment Programs (APPs) who administer Stage 3 funds in L.A. County, the current population of 0-5 children enrolled in Stage 3 is 6,788, which represents about 40 percent of all children benefiting from the program locally. The cost of the 0-5 population is calculated at $4.6 million per month for L.A. County.
"We felt it was important to help these families and child care providers who faced lay-offs by providing this three-month safety net, especially since we know our legislative leaders are committed to restoring the funding in the coming months," First 5 LA Chief Executive Officer Evelyn V. Martinez said of the repayable $15 million grant.
In addition to providing cash subsidies for child care, APPs provide families with child care and early education information and services, including how to choose a quality child care provider. The 13 APPs in L.A. County are:
Each of these agencies has a designated service area and provides services to eligible families living or receiving child care within their specific geographic area.
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