Recent adjustments to the state allocation for childcare money has allowed for the expansion of the Orange County Department of Social Services’ childcare program.
Penny Rich, an Orange County commissioner, explained that an allocation adjustment of this scale is not uncommon, but can sometimes come as a good surprise.
"We always need more funds for social services. We appreciate all the funding we can get,” Rich said.
Rich said because of state cuts, this money last year ensured that children in kindergarten could still benefit from after school childcare that was provided in pre-K years.
While this money is essential to the continuation of care and the ability to add more families on to the childcare subsidy, the money acts more in the way of a reimbursement of state government cuts.
"They were cutting us a million, plus we had a waiting list,” Nancy Coston, the director of the Orange County Department of Social Services. “The good news is that when everything is sorted, we won't have a waiting list for childcare, and we won’t have to spend all the money that the county gave us, because we did get additional federal allocation.”
Coston explained that over the last three years, allocations from the state have been inconsistent.
“We started out with 4.4 million and then 3.4 and then back to 4.4,” she said. “The county dollars help in leveling that out.”
Coston referred to the county allocation as a safety net, in case the new state money didn't come through, or was less than expected. She explained that this unpredictability is hard to plan around, and can affect the population who benefit from childcare.
“Not knowing that the money is necessarily going to be there on July 1 forces you to make certain decisions from March to June,” she said.
“You are afraid to add children because you might not be able to pay for them in July, unless there’s some other donor.”
She added that adding a family onto childcare and then pulling them off the subsidy is avoided at all costs.
Michael Reinke, executive director of the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service, said that this money is important for the community.
"One of the biggest barriers a parent of young children has is how do you cover the cost of child care,” Reinke said. “This money allows families to pay their basic bills. It is a pretty fundamental American value that if you work hard and play by the rules, you should be able to make it, and the problem for so many families right now is they can’t.”
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