Budget crisis collateral: child care and the families who depend on it

(California’s late state budget has been hurting child care providers, holding up reimbursement checks for time they’d already worked. Yesterday, some of the affected educators and caregivers held a press conference where family child care provider, and SEIU member, Tonia McMillian told her story.)

Hello, my name is Tonia McMillian, and I’m a licensed home-based child care provider in Bellflower. I care for 11 children, many of whom receive state subsidies to help their parents afford child care. The current budget delay has presented a mix of emotions for me and the families that I care for. For the first time in my 15 years of child care service, I have been forced to face the reality that I might have to shut my doors.  

tonia-mcmillian-with-s-hernandez.jpgChild care has been my passion and desire for many, many years. After completing my child care education at Long Beach City College, I decided that I would make a difference in the lives of children and, as far as I know, I did just what I set out to accomplish.

However, maintaining my business and my home with no money has proven to be a monumental challenge.

Because of the current budget stalemate, I have not been paid to care for some of these children for the last 3 months and others for the last 2 months. I can no longer plan or budget for my week. I have to take each day as it comes. I’ve extended and, in some cases over-extended, arrangements to meet my needs, i.e. utility bills, food, rent, and many other bills.

My parents need the help that the subsidies provide and are extremely grateful that I have not shut my doors…yet. Without child care, my single father who is raising his son as a single parent, will be forced to quit his job. Did I mention that he is considered one of California’s working poor? Yet, through his job, he contributes back to our economy and he can walk tall with his head held high knowing that he is working to make his life and the life of his son better.

But the loss of this income has made it extremely hard to continue to run my business. I have taken on a part-time job in addition to my child care business to pay the bills for myself and my own two children, and I have talked with all of my parents about the real possibility that in the coming weeks I may have to shut my doors in order to find other work to support my own family. This is a decision that is truly devastating for me, for I have been an excellent child care provider for 15 years and love this work, and I know that these children and parents are going to really struggle in my absence.

Almost every other child care provider in my area is in the same situation as I am. We’ve all had to cut costs dramatically since our paychecks were halted, including laying off staff who help us pay more attention to each child in our care and who also badly need these jobs.

Worse yet, the money we normally receive from the Federal Food Program is being withheld simply because the state of California can’t contribute its meager 5% share. Think about that–tens of thousands of providers in California aren’t getting their monthly food program checks–which can be anywhere from 100 to 1000 dollars a month–because the state can’t contribute their tiny 5% share and won’t release the much greater federal portion.

That’s millions of dollars being left on the table – dollars that are usually recycled back into the community through the grocery stores where we shop. Hundreds of thousands of children in the state depend on these funds to help them get nutritious meals that they might not otherwise get.

I know providers who are now feeding their own families peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and ramen noodles every day – just so they can afford to feed their daycare children.

I came to speak here today to put a face on this budget crisis. This is about the future of quality child care in our state, not partisan politics or politicians squabbling in Sacramento. Children are suffering. Providers and their families are suffering. And if a solution isn’t found soon we are going to be doing irreversible harm to our state’s youngest and most vulnerable citizens.

Thank You.

Cross posted from the Early Learning blog.

3 thoughts on “Budget crisis collateral: child care and the families who depend on it”

  1. This is a tragic story and I blame the legislative morass in Sacramento.  To have politicians banter and bicker while the People of California suffer (and worse, our children and the caregivers) is simply unacceptable.  I say we put the lot of them (house, senate, governor) in a room, lock the door and not let them out until their is a signed budget.  If they get hungry have the state prison send over some trays.  These clown must learn to do the People’s work.

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