Parents hope against cuts to CalWORKS child care program

Parents hope against cuts to CalWORKS child care program »Play Video
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- Child care providers and parents who depend on a state welfare program held a vigil Wednesday at Beach Park in hopes of saving the program and keeping it from being defunded.

"Lord, please! Give us our funding back for our kids," said Amber Ferguson, who is a day care provider.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently eliminated the funding for California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids Stage 3 child care with a veto after the state budget was passed. The cut takes $256 million from the program and puts it instead in a rainy day fund meant for state reserves to be used in "bad budget years."

That would impact about 1,600 children in Kern County and 81,000 children statewide, leaving them and their families without child care placement. Stage 3 is for parents who are off cash welfare assistance and have used up all their regular child care subsidies.

"I'm probably going to lose my job," said Dawn Pruitt.

She has three children, 11, 7 and 4, who are now in the CalWORKS Stage 3 child care program. Without the help from the state, Pruitt says she would be forced to stay home and care for her kids since she cannot afford to pay out of pocket for child care. And she would end up going back on welfare.

"It makes no sense at all to me," said Pruitt.

The governor's action has been appealed. A judge in Alameda county
is scheduled to hold a hearing on Thursday, November 4 on a temporary restraining order blocking the elimination of the program.

Assembly Speaker John Perez no matter what the judge rules, he plans on keeping the funding alive for the program. Perez says $6 million was taken from the Assembly budget, and another $15 million is coming from the Los Angeles branch of First Five, which is funded by tobacco money. Perez is asking other First Five groups around the state to chip in as well.

"We're doing everything we can to bridge the funding to get us through the end of the year," said Perez.