March 13, 2023
By ADAM BEAM
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Every weekday, Patricia Moran has up to a dozen children in her San Jose home day care center, mostly from low-income families — and sometimes the kids are as young as 2 weeks old because their parents can’t afford to take more time off from work.
In between helping the children make bubbles, serving them meals at a big table with small chairs and teaching them “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” in English and Spanish, Moran said she is fielding phone calls from other parents — sometimes up to four per day — who are desperate to find care for their young children.
That’s why Moran was surprised when Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is just starting his second term in office, proposed to delay funding for 20,000 additional slots for subsidized child care for low-income families in order to help balance the state budget.
Even more perplexing was Newsom’s reasoning for the delay: The child care spots that were already funded were not yet being used.
“They need (these vouchers) right away,” Moran said. “The parents, they have to go to work.”
It’s true that there’s plenty of demand for subsidized child care, and it’s also true that much of the funding California has already allocated has not been used — a paradox that reflects the state’s roller coaster revenues and the strange funding decisions that arise.
For the past four years, the state has had so much money that it couldn’t spend it fast enough. With record-breaking surpluses aided by billions of dollars in federal pandemic aid, Newsom and state lawmakers paid for 146,000 new child care slots for low-income families. That’s so many new slots — more than double what had been previously available — that state officials couldn’t fill them fast enough.
State-funded child care workers must be licensed by the state, a process that requires background checks and inspections to ensure that day care centers — some of which are in homes — are safe and secure. It can take up to a year to go through the whole process.
Once the administrative hurdles are out of the way, enrolling families can take more time. Farooq Azhar, executive director of BJ Jordan Child Care Programs in Sacramento, said there are 4,700 families on his waiting list. When it’s time for enrollment, some families don’t respond, some don’t follow through and others just “take a long time to complete the required paperwork,” he said.
Read the full article at apnews.com.
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