ELECTION 2010: Governor Schwarzenegger's Legacy--Successful “welfare to work” program to ineffective “work to welfare program”

By Mary Ignatius*

The lives of low-income working mothers and children are hanging in the balance with California Governor’s economically irresponsible and morally reprehensible line-item veto to eliminate the Stage 3 child care program.  Despite having a bi-partisan “hand shake deal” that would have protected child care subsidies, the Governor shocked the legislature by claiming the cuts were necessary to bolster up a “rainy day fund.”

Well Governor, it’s been pouring down on low-income mothers for way too long, and it’s raining right now! His cut will impact 60,000 low-income families, 81,000 children, and tens of thousands if child care providers. These mothers—who were told that if they followed the rules, they could attain economic security—are now being told that their years of hard work count for nothing. So Governor, with one decision you have taken California’s successful “Welfare to Work” program and instantaneously turned into an ineffective “Work-to-Welfare” program, because many of these mothers will be returning to the welfare rolls which will cost more in cash aid, food stamps, medi-cal and other benefits than the cost of child care alone. Some of these mothers who have exhausted their 5 year limit, don’t even have welfare to fall back on, so they face joining the overwhelmed unemployment lines and homelessness.

The Real Deal: these cuts will save the state $256 million a year, but a 2009 Cornell study states that for every $1 invested in child care it yields a return of $3.50 so do the math. The state will lose nearly $800 million per year in economic activity from these cuts. So if this isn’t an economic savings, what is it then? Why are you scapegoating low-income mothers from communities of color to solve California’s budget deficit that they did not cause?

Governor Schwarzenegger, you still have time to fix this! Restore the funding and leave office knowing you didn’t send 81,000 children to the street and didn’t add more families to the welfare rolls or unemployment line. Otherwise, it’s up to the next Governor to fix the mistakes of the past and change the trajectory of women and children in California toward economic security.

Lastly, at the federal level, the President asked for $1.6 billion in new funding for the Child Care Development Fund that will ensure the child care investments made with ARRA funds remain intact. An estimated 194,000 children in California are on waiting lists for child care, they are missing out on those early learning opportunities that shape their academic success later on. We need this funding to be approved at the maximum level.

* Mary Ignatius is the Statewide Organizer of Parent Voices. Parent Voices (PV), a project of the California Child Care Resource & Referral Network, is a parent-led grassroots organization fighting to make quality child care accessible and affordable for all families. As a young mother, a college-educated woman of color, and a second generation immigrant who grew up in the Bay Area and is committed to social and economic justice, Mary brings passion and inspiration to her peers in Parent Voices.

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There are so many words to describe the devastation this cut has caused, but one word that comes to mind when I think about a brighter tomorrow is INSPIRATION. I think of the thousands of women who have not and will not give up without a fight. Those are the women who don't know where they will live when they have to quit their jobs or the women who don't know how they will feed their families without being able to work. Those are the women who INSPIRE me to keep going and to keep fighting. They are the women that INSPIRE me to push forth in the fight to make sure something like this never happens to our most precious possessions, our children. They are the future; they are the ones who look up to us for INSPRATION. That is why we work so hard to show no matter what life throws your way, not even when someone as important as the Governor tries to tear you down and make you start from scratch do you give up. We are showing our children to fight for what you believe in, to go to school to get a good education so that they are ale become active members of your community. So thank you all for INSPIRING me to be a better person and thank you Mary and Leah for INSPIRING me to accomplish anything I set my mind to, I want you to know you work does not go unnoticed.