The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Child care funds run dry as state budget impasse drags on

Tanesha Queenan, a CSUN senior and single parent of four, never imagined that her graduation plans could be frustrated by the unwillingness of a group of politicians in Sacramento to sign a piece of paper, but the possibility is as likely as it is ridiculous.

Queenan, a cinema and television arts major who is eight months from graduating, received a letter in August from the Child Care Resource Center (CCRC), a local non-profit agency that provides access to high-quality child care, that her 2-year-old twin girls were among the more than 5,000 children in the San Fernando, Antelope and Santa Clarita valleys whose child care payments would be halted on Sept. 1 because of the state’s non-existent budget.

‘It’s upsetting that it comes down to having a budget signed,’ said Queenan, who plans to start her own film production company that casts African Americans in lead roles. ‘I’m going to school to better myself so I can get a job and not have to be in a program like this.’
The non-profit borrowed $4 million dollars to keep providing child care payments for more than 25,000 children during the months of July and August, a move that racked up more than $40,000 in interest charges.

The budget impasse has not only taken a toll on community colleges, hospitals and child care service providers who rely on state funds to operate’mdash;like the CCRC, many have taken out loans to stay afloat’mdash;but also on countless of low-income families who need an extra hand in order to get through school, work or life in general.

On July 1, the state of California started off the fiscal year with no state budget in place thanks to a summer-long squabble fest by Republicans and Democrats over many issues, the biggest being taxes.

‘ ‘We had hope that it would be resolved by now,’ said Stacy Miller, vice-president of external relations for CCRC, about the state budget stalemate. ‘It’s the first time in the seven years I’ve worked here that we’ve stopped paying for child care.’

In order to keep her twin girls at the Pinecrest School’s Toddler Center in Van Nuys, Queenan would have to pay $1600 a month.

‘It’s my responsibility to come up with the money if the state doesn’t pay for it,’ said Queenan, who is currently searching for a job.

For the past three years the CCRC has assisted Queenan in covering the cost of the school’s annual registration fees’mdash;$590 for both girls’mdash;but even under a four-month installment plan, she is struggling to make the payments. With no child care or extra family to care for her daughters, Queenan will have to drop out of school and forget about walking the graduation stage in May.

‘ ‘There’s nothing I can do,’ said Queenan. ‘I have to keep them home.’

Miller has heard all sorts of stories from single parents who are in similar situations, like a single mother of three who is considering leaving her 10-year-old daughter with a key to look after her two younger daughters so she doesn’t have to quit her job.

At the Associated Students Children’s Center located on campus the situation is ‘manageable,’ said Jennifer De La Torre, the assistant director at the center. Although the center also stopped receiving state aid on July 1, the financial assistance from Associated Students has helped ‘keep us above the water,’ said De La Torre. ‘We are extremely fortunate.’

But the Children’s Center, which currently cares for 120 children of students, faculty and community members, has stopped enrolling parents on state contracts because ‘when the budget is passed we don’t know what our funding will be,’ said De La Torre. ‘It’s disquieting to see the legislature not reach a compromise. Our students already have loans, their economic situation is tight.’

Miller mentioned that some child care centers and daycare providers have kindly allowed children to stay in their care without knowing if they will be compensated in the end. Many of them have also taken out loans and re-mortgaged their homes to pay their staff at least minimum wage.

‘If it goes on any longer, I don’t know how much longer our providers can hang on,’ said Miller. ‘We hope this ends soon.’

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