SALINAS, Calif. (KION) Monterey County officials are seeking input after sharing its proposed budget, which includes money to expand child care and healthcare.
The budget proposal is for the 2021-2022 fiscal year. The proposed budget would make all county parks free for residents, fund the opening of a new military and veterans affair office and provide more money for rental assistance. The $1.7 billion include $1.5 million for childcare and 500,000 to expand Esperanza Care.
Leticia Ibarra, a Greenfield resident was previously worked as an educator for headstart. There is a high need for childcare and from her experience, some parents just can’t afford it, she said.
"The children are our future. Not only would the families benefit but most importantly the children," said Ibarra. "Children are just starting to develop and if they have a good education since the start then they’ll be successful. Educations is the base for success.”
Monterey County Supervisor Chris Lopez said this budget proposal from Monterey County could help families facing issues paying for childcare. The 1.5 million dollars for childcare will be used by providing stipends for families who need help with the cost. And also to incentivize childcare providers.
"A childcare provider making $15 an hour, right now this economy is heating up in terms of the need for workers," said Lopez. "You might be able to go make more money by taking a job elsewhere. But we need those people working in that space. And so we need to make that investment now to encourage them to remain within that sphere of work to allow our communities to get back to work."
Besides childcare, the county's proposal to help undocumented and low income residents get health insurance also caught Ibarra's attention. According to her, a resident's citizenship status is a major hurdle to getting health insurance.
“It's sad and unfortunate that one’s health is not prioritized," said Ibarra. "Everyone deserves access to affordable health care. These people work hard and they deserve a healthy life.”
Expanding Esperanza Care is a priority, as it's expected to help multiple low-income and undocumented people have access to preventative care. As the waitlist at Esperanza Care continues to grow, said Lopez.
"If we can provide it earlier, and keep them in our community and healthier longer," said Lopez. "That is our real goal to make sure that our community is healthy from the ground up, right. It's how we avoid a lot of chronic diseases which can linger for years."
The budget proposal is currently under review and is expected to be revisited for a final vote by the end of this month. Funds will become available for use starting July.