After-School Care Also In Crosshairs Of Governor’s Budget

OSWEGO, NY – The governor’s budget proposal to close many state parks and historic sites, including Oswego’s Fort Ontario, has created a furor since it was announced Friday.

However, parents who rely on free after-school programs may be in for a shock as well.

Those programs are also facing $11 million in possible budget cuts.

Governor David Patterson proposed earlier this month to reduce the funds for the “Advantage After School Program” down to $17 million; that would force 79 of the 303 program sites to close when their contracts expire this year.

The after-school program was partially funded with money left over from the state’s welfare program.

There has been an increase in the welfare grant and skyrocketing demand due to the floundering state economy.

The leftover TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) funds have dried up.

If approved, the closures would eliminate programs, which are operated through YMCAs and other organizations, for more than 6,000 children and eliminate thousands of jobs.

According to Deana Masuicca, director of the Oswego YMCA, they have just recently (in December) signed a new two-year pact with the state for their program.

The program, for children 13 to 18 years old, helps the community by keeping kids off the streets, and it helps students by offering tutorial and other academic support programs, she said.

“We have mostly high school students in the program, with a few middle school students as well,” she noted. “This is our fourth year in the program.”

It provides activities for the students from about 2:45 to 5:45 p.m., she said.

Advantage also makes it possible for many parents to work because it gives them a childcare option between 3 and 6 p.m.

“The students take part in a ‘game club,’ play some basketball and do their homework,” Masuicca said. “This is a very good option for the kids. It’s very positive for the youth as well as the community. I hope they can find somehow to continue funding it.”

Currently, between 30 to 40 students take advantage of the program in the Port City.

Masuicca said she thinks the program is safe for the life of the two-year deal. But admits, “I don’t know, the state could cancel it at any time” given the current economic climate.