Updated:ORLANDO, Fla.,None —
Thousands of Central Florida families are at risk of losing government financial assistance for after-school care. Eyewitness News learned that a bill being debated in the state legislature would end subsidized care for most children after they turn six years old.
Paula Campbell is a single, working mother of four who says she does not know what she would have done without government assistance for after-school care.
"I was able to go to school and take extra classes, and with that I was able to get offers for better jobs," said Campbell.
“Once they reach their 6th birthday would no longer be eligible," under the bill, said Karen Willis with the Early Learning Coalition of Orange County.
Willis said the new law would force 3,000 children in Orange, Osceola, and Seminole counties out of after-school programs.
"It's really the working poor, the folks that are out there putting dinner on the table every day that are going to be the most impacted," said Willis.
Lawmakers say forcing those kids out would open up school readiness slots for children under 5 years old.
The United Way said that move comes at too big of a cost. Studies show children are most likely to be victimized during the hours after school and before their parents get off work.
Other research links after-school programs with higher test scores. Robert Brown with Heart of Florida United Way says cutting kids off from after-school care will cost the state more in the long run.
“If that child is a dropout by the time they're 14,15,16 years old, there is certainly going to be a price to pay,” said Brown.
The bill had its second reading on the House floor on Wednesday. The next step is a final vote.
Eyewitness News reached out to Rep. Marti Coley, who supports the bill, on Wednesday. She said it is important to make children under 5 a priority since the waiting list for them is so long. The final vote on the bill will happen tomorrow.