Bay County Commissioners face a tough choice in their budget plans this year and an organization that works with young children needs some funding. If they don't get it, it could put the educational program in jeopardy.
More than 3,000 children and their families in Bay County are grateful for the work of the Early Learning Coalition, but without them, it would be pointless for some parents to maintain a job.
Children minds are like sponges, absorbing and storing information; that's one of the main reasons parents place their kids in early learning centers, but that comes at a hefty cost. "Our average cost of care in Bay County for an infant is $135 a week. The average cost for preschoolers is $100 and if you're bringing home $350, does it really pay to work?" Executive Director Lynne Eldridge says.
The Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida provides income eligible families with money for child care services at an affordable rate. The school readiness program serves babies from 6 weeks to 5 years old.
"Last year in Bay County, we reimbursed for services for families approximately $5.5 million, so that went into Bay County's economy." Eldridge says it also kept families working, but it could change.
"The state told us that they're willing to fund us but they want for us to gain community support." Eldridge approached the Bay County Commission last week, asking them to pay 1/5 ($50,000) of the matched funds.
The state says they'll pay $16 for every dollar collected here in Bay County. "Without the 1 dollar, we lose the 16. So if you look at 200,000 times 16, which makes a very big difference for us to be able to help parents." Eldridge says.
The Bay County Commission asked the agency to approach the other municipalities benefiting from their program. As of now, no decision has been made on their budget request.