Subsidized child care to end at end of year

A settlement approved Wednesday ensures San Luis Obispo County parents can continue using child care services through the state’s welfare-to-work program through the end of the year.

Child care advocates said that under the agreement, the state will continue to fund the CalWORKs Stage 3 program through Dec. 31.

The settlement also requires state-contracted child care agencies to tell families about their right to request a screening for any other available child care services, said Melissa Rodgers of the Child Care Law Center, one of the parties in a lawsuit filed after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger eliminated the program in a line-item veto in October.

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 more than 54,000 children would be affected by the cuts, including 434 in San Luis Obispo County.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Wynne Carvill, who approved the settlement, had issued an emergency order earlier this month to block the cut from taking effect Nov. 1.

Child care advocates say they’ll continue to pressure the state Legislature to restore the funding — as well as Gov.-elect Jerry Brown once he resumes office in January.

“The settlement creates much-needed breathing room during the holidays for the families that Gov. Schwarzenegger cut off last month — but it is a short-term measure, not a permanent fix,” Rodgers said in a statement.

The news came as a relief to Sheri Wilson, director of the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo’s Child Care Resource Connection, which funnels state funding to child care providers.

“Our next step is to start notifying parents that we have child care through Dec. 31,” she said. “But our struggle isn’t over. We still need to have Stage 3 restored to keep CalWORKs intact because the program works.” Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.