Parents, child care providers on edge over budget battle

SEATTLE -- The state's budget impasse is sending ripples down to Washington's smallest residents, and without a new budget many families will soon be scrambling to find child care.

Daycare operator Kari Hilderbrand won't use bad language around her kids, even though she's ticked off about the state's budget battle. She will say the mess "burns her cookies."

"I am totally, 100-percent frustrated," she said.

Most of Hilderbrand's clients receive state assistance for daycare. If the state's operating budget doesn't pass by July 1, 18 of her kids will not have childcare.

"It's the kids that are going to be suffering," Hilderbrand said. "School's out, there's nowhere else to go. Boys and Girls Club is already overrun with children."

The Department of Early Learning sent out a letter warning licensed daycare providers to have a plan in place should child care subsidy payments cease for care starting July 1.

It's a frightening predicament for Erin Kelly, a working single mom with two kids in daycare.

"It's scary," Kelly said. "I don't know how I would get to work. I couldn't leave my children at home."

Through the Department of Social and Health Services, Kelly has a $65 co-pay, and she said she couldn't afford the $1,200 it would cost her otherwise.

'It's absolutely no warning. It's next week that I would have nowhere to put my children while I go to work," she said.

Parents aren't the only ones worrying about next week. Hilderbrand receives a state check once a month, and June's payment could be postponed.

"I would lose my business," she said. "All my bills are due at the same time every month, not when the state gets around to paying me. It would destroy me. And it's not just me, all of the daycares are in the same boat."

Hilderbrand said if lawmakers continue with their last-minute budget battles she might scale back on DSHS clients, because for her the unknown is unacceptable.

"I can't afford for them to do this to me every two or three years," she said.