SHIRLEY - State budget cuts are putting many Suffolk County parents in a tough spot: the assistance they get in paying for day care is about to run out. The county says there has been hundreds of new applicants for the program this year. A 20-percent spike in applicants coupled with decreased state funding is creating a day care crisis.

The state issues block grants to Suffolk to subsidize day care, but Albany's budget mess has seen the grants reduced three years in a row. Economists say this hurts not only parents trying to get quality care for their children, but also legitimate day care operators. "We don't want them [parents] going to some baby sitter who's not going to take care of them properly," says Suffolk Leg. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley). Parents such as Brianna Diaz, of Shirley, are wondering where to turn so they can know their children are safe while they're working. "This leaves me in a really bad situation," Diaz says. "I'm a single mother, so I need this and they're taking it away."