Smart Startprovides about $10 million in subsidies to child care providers. But recently, some providers say the checks have been late and that has put a financial strain on the small, in-home workers -- a strain they say could affect the care children receive.
The kids are happy at Michele Miller's four-star family day care home in Raleigh, and she wants to keep it that way.
Miller depends on Smart Start funding -- about $1,000 a month -- to help pay for three of the five children she cares for, but she says the money is often late.
"It may be some time this week, it may be the next week, they're not sure of exactly when it will be deposited," Miller says.
Regina McAllister also owns a home day care and gets as much as $2,000 a month in Smart Start money.
"For the last 3 months or so, it's been late," McAllister says.
She says small, in-home providers may stop taking subsidized kids if the situation does not improve.
"A lot of them are saying they're not going to take children that have assistance because of the fact that they can't get paid on time," McAllister says of her colleagues. As a result, she fears "you're going to have kids going to care that's not adequate."
Wake County Smart Start Executive Director Pam Dowdy says there is a lot of paperwork involved in doling out the subsidies. She admits the system does not always work perfectly.
"What we want to do is get solutions for people," she says. "The best way to do that is knowing what the problems are. We're committed to helping these families, as well as all of the centers."
In Wake County, Child Care Resource and Referral distributes the money to providers. The director admits the money was a few days late last month, but says his organization works very hard to make sure providers regularly receive their money on time.