Collier leaders provide child-care grant in name of economic development PHOTOS

Teacher Lina Patino helps her students get exercise on the playground at the NCEF Early Childhood Development Center on the Edison State College campus in Naples on Friday, April 29, 2011. Enrollment has recently increased at the center due to $100,000 that has been released by NCEF and the Collier County Board of County Commissioners as an investment in the economic self-sufficiency for local families. David Albers/Staff

Photo by DAVID ALBERS // Buy this photo

Teacher Lina Patino helps her students get exercise on the playground at the NCEF Early Childhood Development Center on the Edison State College campus in Naples on Friday, April 29, 2011. Enrollment has recently increased at the center due to $100,000 that has been released by NCEF and the Collier County Board of County Commissioners as an investment in the economic self-sufficiency for local families. David Albers/Staff

— Lisbet Ogaza took a break from studying Friday morning to watch her 5-year-old daughter during sing-along time at the NCEF Early Childhood Development Center in East Naples.

Ogaza will graduate in December with her registered nursing degree from Edison State College, made possible by her hard work and focus on her future.

What helped the single mother along the way is a child-care subsidy so her daughter, Melanie Cardentey, could be enrolled in the center on the Edison campus. The assistance freed Ogaza to attend classes and earn her degree. She has received the child-care subsidy for three years.

“I am able to go to school, otherwise I would not be able to,” Ogaza said. “I cannot wait to finish and work.”

This week, the Collier County Commission unanimously approved $25,000 to the Early Learning Coalition of Southwest Florida so the nonprofit can meet requirements for receiving $2.3 million in state and federal funding available for child-care subsidies.

The commission historically hasn’t provided direct money to nonprofit social service agencies, but Tuesday’s action was considered economic development incentive dollars. There is a direct tie to keeping people working and off welfare when the expense of enrolling their children in child-care programs can be subsidized, said Kathleen Reynolds, chief executive officer of the early learning coalition.

“I can guarantee the economic impact of this program,” Reynolds said.

Because of the subsidies, 1,000 local children are enrolled in child-care programs and 500 families are able to continue working, she said.

In addition, the state and federal funding ensures another 1,133 people are employed in child-care centers, she said. The coalition has contracts with 150 child-care centers in Collier.

The state calculates $14,000 is saved against welfare expenditures and housing assistance by each family that is kept employed with the help of the child-care subsidy, she said. Reynolds uses a more conservative figure.

“We can say $10,000 in taxpayer money is saved for every family we can put to work because we can subsidize their child care and they are not receiving welfare,” she said.

In order to qualify for a subsidy to help pay for enrollment in a child-care center, a client must be working a minimum of 20 hours a week or enrolled in school, she said. Every client must requalify every six months.

Early Learning Coalition

Early Learning Coalition

“Our typical client is a single mother with two kids and it would be more than 50 percent of her income to pay for child care,” she said, adding that their typical hourly wage is $8 to $10.

With the subsidy, clients spend about 9 percent of their income toward child care, she said.

Besides the county’s $25,000, the Naples Children and Education Foundation (NCEF), sponsors of the Naples Winter Wine Festival, is providing $75,000 in cash and an in-kind contribution of $50,000. The combined funding is enabling the coalition to meet its required match of $150,000, or 6 percent of $2.3 million, to receive the state and federal funding available to Collier County for the subsidies.

* * * * *

In prior years, the state allowed the coalition to use in-kind contributions from NCEF to meet the local match.

Reynolds has tried for several years to educate county leaders that the money earmarked for Collier could go to another community if the match can’t be raised. She recently met individually with each commissioner to educate them about the program’s benefits.

“I think if there is an aspect that was different about putting county dollars into (this) it was the economic development impact,” said Howard Olshansky, executive director of NCEF. “Child care is one of the most significant barriers to work.”

Howard Olshansky

Howard Olshansky

The NCEF trustees recognize the benefit of their investment, both to the clients and the children, but also because it brings money into the community, he said.

Commissioners all supported providing the $25,000 because of the return on the investment.

“I think there is a real value in keeping these people employed,” Commissioner Georgia Hiller said, adding that the cost of unemployment benefits would far exceed the county’s $25,000 investment.

Commissioner Donna Fiala said another plus is the children can be enrolled in safe child-care centers instead of some informal settings that some parents resort to in order to work.

At NCEF’s child-care center on the Collier campus of Edison State College, six more children were taken off a waiting list this week and enrolled as a result of assurance the state and federal funding is available, said Naomi Gordon, director of the center, which opened two years ago.

With the subsidy, most clients pay anywhere from $5 to $25 a week for their child’s enrollment, Gordon said.

Without a subsidy, a single parent or family would have to pay $200 a week for infant care, she said.

“It is not affordable, that is $10,000 plus a year,” she said. “They wind up not working and going on public assistance. It is horrific. We’re enabling parents (with the subsidy) to make their lives better.”

© 2011 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 4

Kahunna writes:

$25,000 from Collier County, 2.5 MILLION from federal and state funds.
Do these people pay anything for the care of their children?

I'm sure we are also paying for mom's education too.

And we wonder why we have a 1.4 TRILLION defecit.

titanbite writes:

One of the main reasons why our country has such a large deficit is due to the fact that this country has an overabundance of people who aren't smart enough to spell DEFICIT!

Many probably don't even know the definition of the word!

Perhaps,if we could get some of the cheapskate business owners in this country to forgo their wife's boob-job and pay their employee's a living wage,you know,a wage that would negate the need for welfare and child care subsidies,maybe,we could get most of those families off of welfare and entitlements for good.

NAAAA,the business owners in this country don't want to look at their wife's sagging chest,they would rather hire some undocumented workers and have the taxpayer subsidies their workers needs while they pocket the profits that come with paying lower than poverty level wages.

It's a greed thing and until people realize what business is doing to the citizen/workers of this country,basically,pitting our workers against the workers in the world's worst slave labor nations,like China,that way,business can pay even less and force more of their workers onto welfare and food-stamps at the expense of the taxpayers.

Hey,why should business pay a living wage if the taxpayers will pay to keep their workers fed,clothed and housed,along with anything else they may need,like childcare,so,they can continue to provide the level of profit businesses have become accustomed to pocketing over the last decade.

It's a win for business and we all know that's all that matters!

Kahunna writes:

People need to take responsibility for their own actions and not expect the tax payers to always support their arses.

In this case a one dollar condom would have saved the tax payers thousands.

SPOCKQT writes:

This is another example of the BCC not being able to remember that the primary role of County Government is to provide essential services to the residents that they represent.

Fiscal responsibility is one of the most difficult concepts to teach and to understand for an organization. This is especially apparent in the BCC.

Because of the "feel good" component of this handout, the BCC violated an tremendously important Fiscal policy for the organization - they gave away money needed for the primary operations.

In any county the individual resident needs to remember that the strongest community is built by being fiscally independent and sustainable.

The BCC needs to remember that giving handouts "handicaps" a community's strength and creates long term debt. This action by the BCC makes "dependents" and that is bad for the long term strength of the community.

Character and self esteem is built by learning to be independent and sustainable. This is hard, it is difficult and is necessary to create a strong individual and community.

Politicians tend to forget fundamental human development issues when they need to get re-elected.

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