• Parents up against deadline for child care funding

    By: Alexa Ashwell


    GASTON COUNTY, N.C. - Hundreds of families will soon be put back on a waitlist for money to help pay for costly child care.
    About 1,700 children received assistance through the subsidized child care program at the start of the 2013- 2014 fiscal year, according to Gaston County's Department of Health and Human Services.  
    In January 2014, time limited vouchers were issued to an additional 600 children. This was made possible through an $855,000 bonus in funding from the state of North Carolina.
    The time-limited vouchers will expire May 30. Subsequently, more than 300 children will no longer receive assistance in Gaston County.   
    "The more than 300 children will be added to our wait list," said Wanda Whetstine, who is the county's child care coordinator. "We were not able to absorb them all. Our wait list now stands at approximately 420 children."
    Mecklenburg County DHHS also received additional funding in January 2014 that allowed it to distribute time limited vouchers to 1,975 children. These children will go back onto a wait list once the time limited vouchers expire, officials said. When this deadline passes, the department estimates its wait list will stand at 3,270 children.
    "These are families who are working, most making minimum wage and some also going to school," said Whetstine. "We'd like to help them all because they qualify for this assistance. Unfortunately, I don't think we will ever be able to meet the need."
    Some area day cares expect a decline in enrollment once the vouchers expire. 
    "I have six or seven parents who will lose their funding at the end of May," said Sonjia Lee, who is the owner of All About Me Learning Center in Belmont. "Most likely I will lose their business because they can no longer afford to bring their child here."
    Channel 9 spoke with one of those parents at All About Me Learning Center.  Brittany Owens, 20, is a single mother who has a job and attends school. Her daughter will be put back on the wait list as of May 30.
    "I have a 5-month-old daughter named Brooklynn," said Owens.  "I work at Hardee's and I'm going to school to become a computer technician in order to support my family. I don't know what I'm going to do at the end of May. I'm going to have to take off work or some days not go to class."
    Gaston County estimates its budget will be $6,080,419 for fiscal year 2014-15. That is a slight decline compared to its $6,247,692 budget for 2013-14.
    "We won't know exactly how many families and children we will be able to help this coming fiscal year until the state releases its budget, which will most likely be in July," Whetstine said. "The county determines its budget based on funding from the state."

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