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Aid won’t stop for 204 children

San Luis Obispo County parents who receive child care assistance through the state’s welfare-to-work program got two pieces of good news this week, allowing them to keep their children in day care and after-school programs for now.

First 5 of San Luis Obispo County this week provided funds for 204 county children to continue receiving child care Monday — the day that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s line-item veto of $256 million to CalWORKs Stage 3 was set to take effect.

And, Friday, an Alameda County Superior Court judge issued a temporary restraining order to halt the cuts until a hearing on a lawsuit is held Thursday.

The lawsuit, filed by Parent Voices Oakland and four mothers who faced losing child care, urged the cuts be temporarily delayed so that working parents don’t have to choose between their jobs or paying for child care.

CalWORKs Stage 3 subsidizes child care for low-income families who have transitioned off welfare and have been off cash assistance for more than two years.

The state Department of Education estimated about 54,000 children would be affected by the cuts, including 434 in San Luis Obispo County.

First 5 commissioners on Wednesday approved funding up to $300,000 to provide child care for children up to 5 years old for the next three months — by which time Executive Director Susan Hughes hopes the state Legislature will have restored funding to the program.

Funding for First 5, which supports programs for expectant parents and children up to age 5, was established by Proposition 10, passed in 1998, which added a 50 cent per-pack tax on cigarettes.

However, the First 5 money won’t help the other 230 children affected by the cut, who could still be without child care options, pending court action on the lawsuit.

Sheri Wilson, director of CAPSLO’s Child Care Resource Connection, which funnels state funding to child care providers, said the staff has been working to find after-school options for the older children, but families may have to pay for it out-of-pocket.

Parents with a child 5 years old or younger received a call Friday from CCRC to alert them that the child care services will continue, Wilson said.

“We’re just continuing Stage 3 as if it had never stopped for these people,” she said. “People are so thankful and so are we.”

Enid Cordero received a call Thursday to tell her that she could continue to take her 5-year-old son to his day care facility in Atascadero.

“I feel blessed at the moment,” said Cordero, a cook at Atascadero State Hospital. She said she’s “hoping and praying” that the program will continue to be funded.

Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.

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