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City Child-Care Subsidies for Needy in Santa Monica Fall Short
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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

April 5, 2017 -- Demand for City-funded subsidies to help pay for child care has jumped more than 50 percent in the last fiscal year, far exceeding the $867,500 earmarked to help financially-pressed Santa Monica families, according to a report released Tuesday.

As the City begins creating a new biennial budget -- the current one tops $1 billion -- the report says Santa Monica’s city government lacks “sufficient resources” to meet the rising demand for affordable child care.

“The City of Santa Monica has a long and sustained commitment to investing in the wellbeing of its youngest residents dating back to 1979,” the April 4 update by Karen Ginsberg, director of community and cultural services, said.

But today the City’s “Connections for Children” child-care subsidy program is, in part, a victim of its own success, she said.

“Successful outreach” about the program has created higher rates of referral, and now “a demand that exceeds supply,” Ginsberg wrote.

The lack of subsidy funding left about 27 children without child care, she said.
Ginsberg said the new demand increased the cost of subsidies by another $468,450 annually -- raising the total needed from $867,500 to $1,335,950 a year.

The estimated subsidy is $17,350 annually per child, the report said. Fifty families currently receive the City subsidies.

Life-long learning is one the City Council’s top priorities, including its “Cradle to Career Initiative” and child development.

In the 2015-2016 fiscal year, the City’s “Youth Budget” totaled $42.9 million, about $1.9 million (or 4.3 percent) of it designated for early childhood development.

The biggest portion of youth spending -- $16.5 million, or 38.5 percent -- was for employment and development skills, followed by $12.3 million (28.5 percent) for culture and recreation.

In all, $38.5 million came from the General Fund, with user fees adding $3.2 million and another $1.2 million coming from development agreements and sources such as grants.

The subsidy program is targeted at families who earn too much to qualify for other government child-care aid but still can’t scrape together the estimated $1,500 a month and more they need.

It allows subsidies to families with annual incomes of 80 percent of the Los Angeles County Area Median Income, or $69,450 for a family of four.

Partial subsidies extend to families with annual incomes of 80 to 120 percent of the Area Median Income, or $104,160 for a family of four, the report said.

Gingsberg said additional problems were hampering the program, but were beyond the City’s control. One was the increase in the minimum wage, which tops out in Santa Monica(and other California cities) at $15 an hour in 2020.

“The increased minimum wage requirements for some private facilities and overall operational costs have caused some child care operators to increase rates for all families, making limited-dollar subsidies more difficult to use,” she said.

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