Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Tuesday May 27, 2008 at the State Capitol

On Tuesday, Assembly Budget Subcommittee #1 on Health & Human Services, under the chairmanship of Patty Berg, heard issues relevant to child care. This was an important hearing because the role of the committee is to review the Governor's budget proposals (as submitted through the Department of Finance) and to decide if these proposals are do-able, honest and good for the state of California and its residents.

Obviously, the state of California is in financial disarray. If the state were a person, it would be talking to a credit counselor right now; it would be cutting up its credit cards, staying out of the mall and looking for a second job. It would be trying to find more tips for lowering its expenses and increasing its revenues. It would not be tyring to get a bus ticket to Vegas or Atlantic City in hopes of winning big to pay off its debt. Anyway.....

Patty Berg chaired the committee hearing on three major issues:

  1. Funding Stage 2 CalWORKs Child Care
  2. The Regional Market Rate (RMR)
  3. The Family Fee Schedule

A primer on the issues:

Stage 2 Child Care is the second phase of the child care subsidy path designed to move families off of welfare and into the workforce. Once families enter Stage 2, they are closer to finishing the path to economic self-sufficiency. Across the state, Stage 2 numbers have been increasing, as families really try and work to get on their feet.

The RMR is the payment schedule for child care providers. The rates are based on hours of care, county and demographics, and type of care provided. When rates go up, child care providers are able to offer care, earn a living wage and run a competitive business. When rates go down, child care providers have to make decisions about how to stay open - sometimes this means raising rates for parents, sometimes this means cutting services.

The family fee schedule is the payment schedule for families. It lays out how much families pay, and when they start to pay based on their income.

So, what happened at the hearing???

The committee voted to reject the Governor’s Proposal to Cut Child Care by 6.4%-----this means that they voted against cutting the 18,000 existing child care slots!!!

The committee voted to support an increase of $16.4 million to fully fund Stage 2!!!---many child care agencies had to stop enrolling families in Stage 2 because they didn’t have enough $$$. This $$$ will meet the current year needs.

The committee voted to reject the Governor’s Proposal to reduce the Regional Market Rate to 75%-----if the subcommittee had supported this proposal, some child care centers would have to close because they couldn't’t afford to serve families with child care subsidies. If centers stayed open, it could have made family/parent co-payments go up!!!

The committee voted to support the freeze to the State Median Income for 2008-09 but will ensure that any new fee schedule will not charge fees to families who make below 40% of SMI!!!

· In the May Revise, Dept of Finance wanted to lower the % of when fees begin and the Dept of Education said absolutely not!

· While this is a bitter pill for working poor families and advocates to swallow, it is important to think about the big picture. The big picture goes back to beginning of this post and the credit counseling analogy: the state is facing a $17 Billion deficit, so many other social services might get cut.

There is much work ahead. There are more hearings scheduled and we need to stay informed about what is ahead of us and how we can impact some change. As this Newsweek article shows, there are some other states in a pickle, although thanks to the Terminator, we are in probably the worst predictament.

Once again, it is probably important to recognize a few materials out there that really speak to the issues faced by Community Voices members

Waging a Living is a very good documentary that follows the lives of four families struggling to pay for child care and survive. If you can watch the trailer here, please click. The production also convened a group of experts to talk about the obstacles working poor families face. Read the transcripts.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Final thoughts...

Kim Schaaf from Options shared her story as "closing thoughts". She was a single parent who was close to needing welfare (help) and received child care subsidies. That allowed her to get on her feet, go back to school, get a degree and a job. Now she is the Resource and Referral manager at Options and she has a beautiful son who is in college.

That is the story that we all want to hear and know that we can hear if we have help and supports. No one is asking for a hand-out. We just don't want to be disregarded. The state of California is mandated to help cover the costs of child care for working poor families transitioning off of welfare and into the work force. The state should also responsibly try and support working poor families who have never been on aid but need some help. People like to think of these families as lazy and undeserving. They are just the opposite. They are parents who have one, two, three jobs and who are struggling - not to buy a Bentley, but to buy bread and milk and shoes and jackets and books for their children. they want to work and they want to be a role model. They also, like many of us from time to time, need some help. And that is why we pay taxes - to help those who are less fortunate in order to get them where they need to be so that they can give back. And yet we are once again fighting to keep the Governor from kicking poor people (the majority of whom are children) off just about every kind of imaginable social service/health/education program there is. disgusting!!!

What is next for Community Voices? More meetings down in Los Angeles, maybe a rally or two. We need to keep this bus moving!!!

Last posting on Sacramento.....

Parent Mike from Options talking about the challenges of trying to afford child care. Now, many families are having to reach out to food banks for help. The sluggish economy and the state deficit have made it hard for working class families to survive. There was not a dry eye in the house after his plea for sanity around balancing the budget with dignity and respect for working families..... Another parent from Options shares her story.
Parent Baron Littleton from L.A. asks why we are not considering raising taxes, why $12 Billion a month is going to Iraq while families and children struggle....good questions...
Assembly member Betty Karnette dropped by to share some thoughts. She was impressed with the turnout and asked everyone to make calls to their politicians....republicans need to know these cuts will kill families, the public needs to know the Budget Stabilization Act is a sham, the media needs to know that closing corporate loop holes is not a bad thing.....
Afterwards, the legislative staff began to offer some suggestions. At the end of the day, it was a dialogue on what we all can and need to do, how do we work together, what do we do after this event and how do we make a difference....

And more.....

After lunch and after the speeches, the group went inside the Capitol for their town-hall meeting. The meeting was designed as an opportunity for Los Angeles-county legislators and their staff to hear from parents and providers and the issues of child care, child development, and family economic success. One of the organizers prep the legislative staff on the town hall meeting.
Staffers introduced themselves to the audience of parents and providers.
Parent Brianne Harvey talked about the challenges of trying to afford child care while "making it".
Parent Louis Wright and Crystal Stairs CEO Holly J. Mitchell talked about the pressures of paying for quality child care. Louis questioned if the staffers really understood the pain of having to take your child to work because of the inability to pay for child care.
Parents listening to the responses.
Earlier in the day, Parent Louis Wright spoke to the crowd. He was passionate, eloquent and to the point. Our children are our priority and we will accept nothing less from our politicians.

More on the trip to Sacramento...

Families listening to the speakers and getting "pumped up". More little people...
The signs say it all...

Community Voices goes to Sacramento

The following is a photo montage of Community Voices going to Sacramento. On May 7th, the group went to fight against the Governor's cuts to child care. Folks drove up the night before or got up super early to catch planes to take them to Sacramento. Families walking from Westminster Presbyterian Church to the Capitol.
More marching, more signs, more families...
More and more....
We finally get to the steps of the Capitol.
Even the babies are against the cuts.