Local News

Funding Woes May Close Northampton County Day-Care Centers

Posted February 14, 2006

— Northampton County is facing a day care crisis. A program that subsidized child care for parents to get them off welfare has run out of money. The end result means no more subsided day care for hundreds of children.

"Tomorrow, the parents will look for us and we won't be here," said Northampton County Childcare Association chairman Peggy Cary. "Because if the funding is not there, we can't keep our doors open."

Seventeen day-care centers and 13 family child-care Homes in Northampton County probably won't open Wednesday. State and federal dollars paid a day care subsidy to help parents on welfare go back to work. But North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said that county exceeded the amount of children they could support on the allocated money.

Now the funding has dried up, and parents such as Tomika Mason may have to quit work to stay home with their children.

"I don't have anyone to keep my kids," said Mason, who has two children. "My mother works, my grandmother works and it's kind of hard to have someone keep my children everyone works around here."

"With the day-care center closing, it will cause all of us to either quit our jobs or find other means to work, probably work at night," said working mother Selena Pugh.

The day-care centers need $230,000 to keep their doors open. Providers want the county to pick up the tab, even though subsidizing day cares isn't a county responsibility.

"We're just asking if they could mercifully fund us just this one time around," said Cary.

"The commissioners are torn apart by this," said Northampton County Manager Wayne Jenkins. "They have really struggled with this. They sense the frustration, the pain. They know the impact on the community."

Jenkins said $230,000 would wreck the county's budget. Day-care centers say they can't operate without funding. So Wednesday, parents of nearly 300 children must find care somewhere else.

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