State money fiasco may hit single parents | TahoeDailyTribune.com

State money fiasco may hit single parents

Jeff Munson, Tribune city editor

Whether it’s El Dorado County or someplace else in the country, welfare to work programs have been successful. But possible budget cuts at the state level may force many mothers to quit their jobs to care for their children.

In 1997 when President Bill Clinton signed into law a massive welfare reform plan, he also called on states to help working mothers with child care expenses.

That funding is in jeopardy as Gov. Gray Davis is looking to cut into California’s budget to balance a $35 billion deficit.

One such mother who has benefited from state assisted child care is Cheri Varner.

As a single mother of two, making the move from welfare to work is something that Varner is proud of and knows was the correct thing to do. That’s why she and about 500 parents and child care advocates went to Sacramento last week to voice their objections to any cuts to state-funded child-care programs.

The 37-year-old mother is also a full time Lake Tahoe Community College student who earns $9 an hour at her retail job. She has remained off cash aid welfare for more than two years.

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Last year, her gross income was $13,400. In addition, she was subsidized $8,800 by the government for child care.

Proposed cuts to the program would slash the amount that’s paid to her child-care provider and would force Varner to make some critical choices.

Among them would be to quit her job and school to go back on welfare assistance so that she could care for her children or else put her children in unlicensed day care.

“A lot of us are so close after coming along from so far,” Varner said. “For me, going back to school and learning something I can earn a living with to raise my children…. Cuts from the budget would definitely cause problems.”

There are 106 families on the South Shore who receive child-care funding assistance, said Heather Schaumann, subsidy counselor for Choices for Children, a nonprofit organization that aides parents with child-care needs. Statewide, there are 31,000 families in the program.

Two things could happen to the program in the coming budget cycle. Davis could cut the program entirely, or, make the program more restrictive with stricter income standards and limiting child care to children 12 years and under or applying fees to all families on the program.

Either way, there would be consequences, Schaumann said.

“Many would feel this is taking steps backward instead of moving forward,” she said. “If a family on subsidized child care loses their services, it would mean quitting jobs, going back on welfare or leaving their children with substandard child care.”

How effective last week’s rally in Sacramento was in its goal of saving the Stage 3 Welfare to Work program could be seen as early as today when Davis is expected to release early budget revisions.

Jeff Munson can be reached at (530) 542-8012 or jmunson@tahoedailytribune.com

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