Waiting for payday | TheUnion.com

Waiting for payday

California’s budget stalemate has jeopardized the care of some of its youngest citizens, leaving more than 200 day-care providers in Nevada County without a paycheck in exchange for providing basic child care services.

The problem has handcuffed Sierra Nevada Children’s Services, which serves as the conduit that issues checks from the state to child care providers and is given money to help facilitate such services. It has also impacted state-supported preschools such as the Bearcat Discovery Center at Union Hill School, which provides child care services.

“We can’t pay (providers) because we’re in the same holding pattern as the state budget,” said Cori Bruce, executive director for Sierra Nevada Children’s Services. “It’s a horrible situation. … It’s having a huge impact on families.”

Sierra Nevada Childrens Services has even tried, unsuccessfully, to obtain credit so that it can provide money temporarily to child care providers while the state sorts out its budget problems.

Checks were last given to day-care providers on July 15.

The state’s fiscal year began July 1.

Day-care workers such as Amber Frey, who works at Polly’s Child Care, said the impasse is having a severe impact on the day care’s ability to pay its bills and to provide for the majority of the 21 families who are enrolled in the state program that subsidizes their child care needs.

Frey said California child care workers are essentially “doing a job without a paycheck.

“Nobody’s heard this side,” she said. “How would the Legislature like their savings drained? We’re in this business for our children. These families depend on us.”

People who pay cash for child care services or are receiving assistance via CalWORKS are not affected by the budget impasse.

Frey said the money she and her mother-in-law, Polly, receive for the work they do mostly goes directly back into the business ” providing food, activities and supplies for the child care facility, as well as paying for the Freys’ basic non-business expenses.

“Every day that a budget is not signed, if this goes on, I might have to look for part-time work,” she said.

Frey said she earns about $800 every two weeks. Her husband works, she said, but she has no health coverage and she, too, has to pay for subsidized day care for her infant daughter.

Lawmakers such as Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley, are well aware of the problem facing child care and other state workers who have been forced to subsist on minimum wage because of the budget impasse, said Bill Bird, a spokesman for Aanestad.

But Bird said Aanestad and his Republican colleagues do not want to pass a budget that burdens the average California taxpayer with an extra $550 yearly tax bill.

“This is the tip of the proverbial iceberg,” Bird said. “Like everybody else, (child care workers) are stuck until the budget is passed.”

Frey, who said she often subsists on $10 between paychecks, said the state appears to be abdicating its responsibility when it comes to its future voters.

“The bottom line is, these children are our future, and how fair is it for the Legislature when we tell these children we can’t provide for them?”

To contact Staff Writer David Mirhadi, e-mail dmirhadi@theunion.com or call 477-4239.

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