Judge stops child care cuts, for now

November 5, 2010

By Daniel Weintraub

An Alameda County superior court judge gave a short reprieve Friday to thousands of California families on the verge of losing state-subsidized child care.

But the judge — Wynne Carvill — made it clear in the order that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s veto of all funding for the program means that the benefits will eventually disappear unless the veto is reversed by the Legislature or new Gov. Jerry Brown. Failing that, only the timing of the end of the program, and the notice given to recipients, are at issue, the judge said.

The benefits — known in state jargon as “Stage 3 child care” — go to low-income working families who need child care assistance to allow the parents to work. The parents who take advantage of the program have transitioned from welfare to stable employment but still cannot afford child care. More than 50,000 children are cared for through the program.

The judge ruled that the plaintiffs in the case had a reasonable chance of winning their suit and that they would suffer irreparable harm if the child care benefits are eliminated. He set another hearing for Nov. 23 to hear the merits of the case.

The plaintiffs argued that the state Department of Education erred in telling recipients they could not appeal the decision to end their benefits, and in not telling them that they might be eligible for other child care programs.

Judge Carvill said the state laws and regulations calling for hearings when recipients lose their benefits were aimed at individual cases, not a situation where all the funding for the program was eliminated. But he did indicate that he thought the state constitution’s due process provisions might require the state to do more to help recipients find alternatives to the child care they will be losing.

Democratic lawmakers and state schools Supt. Jack O’Connell said they hoped to work with Gov.-elect Jerry Brown to restore the funding Schwarzenegger cut.

“These families have struggled over years to obtain employment that would allow them to leave the welfare system, and they have successfully continued to work and be self-sufficient and responsible for their families,” O’Connell said. “The Governor’s veto will result in these families making very difficult decisions about either continuing their employment or providing a safe environment for their children.”

To download the judge’s order, click here.

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