Critics decry proposed child care cuts
(pictured above: Rep. Garland Pierce speaks out about the proposed Senate budget cuts.)
Parents who currently receive a state subsidy to pay for child care, may be left to foot the entire costs on their own.
Members of the North Carolina Legislative Black Caucus are among the lawmakers condemning proposed Senate budget items that would cut the number of families receiving childcare subsidies and limit how those families would qualify for assistance.
Currently, all children under 13 whose parent earn less than 75 percent of the state median income ($50,244 for a family of four) are eligible for a state subsidiary. The proposed budget would tie the subsidies to the federal poverty level, which is $28,850.
“We are hoping our leaders will not balance this budget on the backs of our children,” Black Caucus Chair Rep. Garland Pierce stated in a media release. “We are concerned that we are slashing the budget for those who may be blind, disabled and those facing other healthcare needs. That’s the real argument between House and Senate leaders, that folks at the bottom of the economic ladder must bear the burden of another tax cut for the wealthy and this is unacceptable.”
Tony Lewis L. Burton III, CEO of Winston-Salem-based Northwest Child Development Center (NWCDC), said his agency would be impacted, as would the long-term success of young people.
“Statistics say that by third grade you know whether or not a child is going to be successful in school or not. We stand to believe in the early education childhood field that the greatest impact on a child is going to be in those first 2,000 days, the first five years of their life,” Burton said. “The more opportunities that child has to learn in a high-quality childcare program prior to entering kindergarten, the more successful those children are going to be.”
NWCDC is already dealing with the loss of funds on the county level. Burton said for almost 40 years the agency – which operates four Mudpies child care centers in Forsyth County and one each in Davie and Stokes counties – has received special appropriation funding from Forsyth County to help low income families pay for daycare. County Commissioners did not include those funds in this year’s budget.
“The money has allowed us in the past to help over 100 children,” Burton said. “Now that is gone away. I realize that part of the reason we make cuts is to stay within the budget, but I don’t think that they’re (county commissioners) taking in consideration the number of children and families that will be affected negatively by this.”
County Manager Dudley Watts Jr. said agencies like NWCDC that received special appropriations in the past were told last year – when NWCDC received $22,576 in appropriations from the county – that commissioners would be eliminating such appropriations and restructuring the way it hands out funds.
Watts said commissioners had gradually decreased its funding of NWCDC over the years, as the county faced financial difficulties.
“That organization is a great organization. They have been around for a lot of years and they do a fantastic job,” Watts said.
NWCDC receives a Forsyth County Department of Social Service subsidy, which was $276,583.65 last fiscal year.
According to NWCDC’s annual report, that subsidy makes up about 18 percent of the support and revenues for the center.
Burton said the proposed state subsidy cuts would be a double blow that could potentially harm NWCDC and impede its mission to provide quality childcare to children in need.
“Some of our funding comes through families that qualify through DSS. There is already a waiting list at DSS but that list could triple. Those families won’t be able to work because they won’t have childcare,” Burton said. “We are hoping that, if anything, they will find more money to make more opportunities for children to receive early childhood education.”
Burton said that he is hoping that someone in Raleigh will see that the children are the future.
“If everyone believes that the children are our future and that is how we are going to make it, we need to put the money behind them now so we can secure our futures and theirs,” he said.