State budget cuts to impact Valley children

FRESNO, California

They were signed into law Thursday by Governor Jerry Brown. Local agencies say the cuts will have a major impact on Valley children.

Thirteen bills were signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown to help reduce California's $26.6 billion dollar budget deficit. Among them, AB99 which will take away $1 billion from First 5 statewide. For Fresno County, that translates to $17 million.

"Especially in this economy, families are stressed," said Kendra Rogers. "Families are cracking and without these types of programs out there we are going to see more kids end up in the child welfare system, more kids being born that need to go in ICU. It's just unfortunate that we don't focus on prevention."

While the money is supposed to come from First 5 reserves, Fresno County Executive Director Kendra Rogers says the $17 million is already tied to local contracts, so the take-away will mean cuts to current programs.

Rogers explained, "We're looking at a reduction in services to kids in home visitations, reduction in developmental services to kids that are dealing with special needs and parents that need parenting support will not be getting it anymore."

The budget will also have a major impact on Healthy Families. The program provides health insurance to low income children and teens. The cuts mean increased premiums, and co-pays for emergency room visits, hospital stays and prescriptions drugs. United Way of Fresno County CEO Michael Alexander says about 2/3 of the county's uninsured children who are eligible for Healthy Families may no longer be able to afford it.

Alexander said, "Really with our economy it's going to make the decision -- do you pay for rent, do you buy food or do you buy prescriptions for your kids that maybe have asthma. So it's a real dilemma for our kids who are uninsured."

Assemblyman Henry T. Perea says making the cuts was tough, but necessary. "I certainly did not run for office to cut good programs, but it could be a lot worse."

Perea says if republicans don't agree to tax extensions, the governor has warned -- the cuts will double.

"They are very difficult choices to make, however we just don't have the money anymore," said Perea. "However, my hope is that we do get these tax extensions on the ballot because I don't want to see another $12.2 million in cuts come across my desk."

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