OGDEN — At least one in-home daycare provider has grappled with how long she could hold slots open for children of furloughed federal employees.

Amy Chase owns and operates Amy’s Daycare in her West Haven home, a job she’s enjoyed for 24 years. Recently, she saved space for two clients who have been out of work since the federal government partially shut down on Dec. 22.

“I don’t make them pay to keep their slots,” Chase said, adding that she hopes they can go back to work soon. But at some point, she acknowledged those vacancies will affect her family budget.

“This is my business and how I pay my bills, so I can only go for so long too. If the government doesn’t go back to work soon, I might have to fill their slots.”

But the longtime childcare provider hoped it would never come to that.

“When you get a rapport with kids or families, you don’t want to say they’re out and someone else is in. It’s trickling down,” Chase said of the pain caused by forcing furloughed families into financial limbo.

On Friday, President Donald Trump announced a deal would be struck to reopen the government temporarily until Feb. 15.

Could subsidies disappear?

Larger daycare providers in Ogden also raised concerns recently about key federal funding that could lapse if the shutdown continues.

Olivia Mendina has directed the nonprofit New Hope Children’s Center in Ogden since 2011.

“We’re located in downtown Ogden, so 95 to 98 percent of our clientele are state assisted. All are worried about losing their childcare,” Medina said of the government subsidies that offset child-care costs for low-income workers. “If those get shut down, we’ll probably have to close down ourselves. We should hopefully know in the next six months.”

Most of Medina’s clients also receive food stamps to supplement low-wage jobs. A continued shutdown threatens that safety net as well, potentially suspending those payments by March.

“It could be the next depression,” Medina said. “There are a lot of people that say ‘give the President the money for a wall.’ But I’m not worried about a wall right now.”

Tracy Gruber, who directs the Office of Childcare for the Utah Department of Workforce Services, said Wednesday that such subsidies are secure “for the foreseeable future.”

“The federal government passed funding in September for many programs, and the Child Care and Development Fund was one of those programs,” Gruber said, speaking of budget approvals for the current fiscal year from Oct. 1, 2018 to Sept. 30, 2019.

Rodney Young directs Kidz Town in Ogden, a nonprofit day care that serves clients who rely on government-funded food stamps and child care subsidies to make ends meet.

“We have 144 kids enrolled here, and 98 percent are on a government food program,” Young said, emphasizing the importance of Kidz Town providing government-subsidized meals every day since most of its families have few choices at home.

“Those are the people that are getting affected the most,” Young said. “The government needs to know who they’re affecting and how much it can hurt a community.”

Food stamps were only funded through February during the 35-day shutdown, and the subsidies daycares rely on to feed children up to three meals and snacks every day could also dry up in the next six to eight weeks. It has yet to be seen how the temporary reopening of the government will impact this.

Mark Peterson, spokesperson for the Utah State Board of Education, said that funding, provided by the Child and Adult Care Food Programs, should last “well into March.”

“I can’t give you an exact date since it depends on how many meals are served, who else joins or leaves the program between now and then, etc.,” Peterson said by email. “The Utah State Board of Education is working with the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget and the Utah Legislature on contingency plans should the shutdown last longer than ‘well into March.’”

In fiscal year 2018, Utah’s Child Nutrition Programs logged 296 daycare sites in Utah using CACFP funds to provide 2,203,198 breakfasts, 2,816,252 lunches, 354,876 dinners and 3,133,928 snacks — at a total cost of more than $11.5 million.

Spreading the pain

Higher-wage workers have also taken financial blows as the federal standoff persisted.

“It is also affecting some of our middle-class clientele,” Young of Kidz Town said. “Not everybody has a cushion to survive without a job or paycheck.”

Clinton resident Krystle Kirkpatrick discovered the lack of padding in her own financial cushion. The mother of two said her Internal Revenue Service job in employment taxes is considered nonessential, so she not called back to work during the shutdown.

The woman who had been watching Kirkpatrick’s children before and after school agreed to hold her child care slots without charge.

“Not everyone has that luxury … even if they’re not working, they still have to pay for daycare or their children will lose their spots, and they’ll have to go back on the waiting list,” Kirkpatrick said.

Even with that bit of grace, Kirkpatrick said she’s had to take on a second job, that of tending bar at night. Kirkpatrick also supplements the family income by donating plasma while her children are in school. That extra cash at least keeps gas in her car.

“All of us are feeling the hurt now. We’re getting close to two paychecks that we’ve missed,” Kirkpatrick said, adding that she couldn’t buy groceries and fill her gas tank on the promise that at some future date she’d get paid.

Even temporary jobs have been off the table as the limbo lengthened.

“Once the government opens or I get called as essential, I have four hours to report,” she said. “Temp agencies can’t hire me for the day and have me say ‘the government reopened and i have to go in four hours.’ You’re basically on call, but you’re not paid to be on call.”

Kirkpatrick coordinates communications for Chapter 67 of the National Treasury Employees Union, and each day begins with contacting elected officials to say “Open the government.”

In spite of her current hardships and uncertainty, Kirkpatrick said she loves her IRS job and wants to stay put.

“I feel like I have value and what I do is important to America,” Kirkpatrick said. “I want to make a career out of what I do.”

Nic Trujillo, a single parent in Ogden, was back on the job as a collections representative at the IRS this week — but without pay.

“I’m about a week away from eviction,” Trujillo said by phone Tuesday. His six-year-old son Zane has autism, so he participates in Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy after school.

Trujillo’s last paycheck at the end of December allowed him to catch up on all his bills, but his $700 rent for February seemed elusive.

“We can live without TV and the internet, but I can’t live on the street,” Trujillo said, acknowledging that he and Zane might have to move in with extended family for awhile.

In the meantime, Trujillo also has a message for his elected representatives: “Get us back to work and negotiate the wall later. Stop using us as a political pawn.”

Cathy McKitrick is a freelance journalist. You can follow her on Facebook or Twitter (@catmck). She can also be reached at catmckit@gmail.com.

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