Page One

Caucus hears child care needs

By John Geluardi, Daily Planet staff
Friday October 26, 2001

Speakers respond to Governor Davis’ $24 million subsidy cut 


OAKLAND – The Women’s Legislative Caucus held the first of two public hearings Thursday to collect community input on Gov. Gray Davis’ proposal to cut $24 million from the state’s child care subsidy program. 

A panel including assemblymembers Wilma Chan, D-Alameda and Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro and Sherry Novick, chief of staff to Assemblymember Dion Aroner, D-Berkeley, heard comments from nearly 50 parents, child care providers and related advocacy groups during the hearing at the Elihu Harris State Building in Oakland. Another public hearing will be held in Los Angeles on Oct. 29. 

All those who spoke Thursday said cutting the program would be disastrous for the state’s most vulnerable communities. 

“By cutting these programs we are cutting the opportunities of our most vulnerable families and workers,” said Pamela Hayes, legislative representative of the California State Federation of Labor. “Please do not balance the budget on the backs of our most vulnerable families and workers.” 

When Davis signed the 2001- 02 Budget Act in July, he vetoed $24 million in funding from the state’s $1.3 billion child care subsidy program. In his veto message, Davis said the program’s policies were inequitable because welfare to work families had more access to the programs than families who earned very little but had not previously been on welfare. 

Furthermore Davis is concerned about the growth of the program’s budget. In 2000, the Department of Finance projected the program budget would increase by $108 million. The department has since reduced that estimate to $63 million but Davis has still expressed concerns.  

The budget cuts would come from portion of the program known as the Stage 3 set aside. The Stage 3 tier of the program is designed for welfare parents who have entered the work force. 

According to subsidized child care advocates, the stage 3 assistance is often the most critical to parents who are often in a fragile transition phase. They said that is especially true in the Bay Area where the cost of living is higher than the rest of the state. Parents who make the transition from welfare to work are often working at low-paying jobs and are unable able to afford child care, which in Alameda County can cost as much as $600 per month for preschoolers and $500 a month for five to 12 year olds. 

Assemblymember Chan said that child care costs are such a burden that many parents who are transitioning to work are in danger of going back on welfare.  

“Can you imagine, you’re making the effort to work and you have been lucky enough to have found child care that you’re happy with and then you discover that you have to drop it?” she said. “I raised two children and I can tell you, finding good child care is not easy and when you lose it, it’s very, very upsetting.” 

Berkeley resident and single mom Tasha Henneman said she would not be able to work without the child care scholarship she receives from Monteverde preschool her 3-year-old daughter attends. Henneman said that child care in Berkeley can cost as much as $750 per month for preschoolers, higher than the county average. 

“It would be impossible for me to afford child care with my salary,” she said.  

Erica Sorrells, a single mother of two, told the panel that she panicked when she first heard of the proposed budget cuts. “The first thing I did was go over my budget and there is no way I can afford child care,” she said. “I thought I was safe and that nothing like this could happen to me.” 

Sorrells, formerly on welfare, is now working as a counselor for the Alameda 4 Cs, a nonprofit agency that helps parents apply for child care subsidies. She said she often has to tell parents that they will be put on a six- to 18-month waiting list for child care assistance. She said when they hear this, the parents sometimes begin to cry. 

“It touches me so much because I know what they are struggling with.” she said. “They are just asking for chance to get past those struggles.”