For the first time, Sasha Maslouski’s home-based child care center, Snapdragon Place, is part of the city’s 3-K program -- providing all-day pre-school to three year olds.
The program is free to parents, and providers like Maslouski are supposed to be paid by the city.
But more than five weeks into the school year, Maslouski said, “We haven’t gotten anything, not a dollar -- zero cents actually.”
That’s left Maslouski scrambling to make ends meet and to pay her two full-time and two part-time employees.
"It’s been like lots of anxiety, panic attacks, just like crying and figuring out what to do, and all at the same time, I really, really don’t want to fire anyone, lay off staff or put them on hold. I’ve been paying them on time, basically using my savings,” she said.
Maslouski has yet to be reimbursed for start-up costs -- like buying new furniture, hiring or training new staff -- or for her operational expenses, like payroll and food for lunches and snacks.
“It’s at least $20,000 a month for my program,” she said of her operational costs.
She does take in tuition from after-school care, her only income stream now but it barely covers her rent.
“It’s emotional, because it’s just very stressful, and it’s a lot of anxiety,” she said, welling up with tears. “And the only way I’m sustaining right now is because I have my personal savings that I've just been, like, accumulating over time.”
In August, education department employees told her that if payments were delayed, she would qualify for an interest-free loan. But come September, she was told she did not qualify, because her daycare is not a non-profit.
“That just crushed me, because I was under the impression we could use it as a back-up. And there is no back-up,” she said.
She’s not alone. Other 3-K providers, including larger centers run by community-based organizations, have reported delays in payments.
The Education Department says Maslouski's payment is pending a 30-day contract review by the comptroller.
"We are as frustrated as our providers with the state of the systems and the planning we inherited in our early childhood programs,” DOE spokeswoman Suzan Sumer said. “We are working on improving our contracting process for this reason, and all of our providers are informed that they must have a registered contract to be eligible for payments."
But Maslouski says the contract process began last November and she doesn't understand why it wasn't sent to the comptroller earlier.
"Every day I’m waking up and I’m going to sleep thinking about how much longer we can stay on,” she said.