Why does it seem like our kids are always the first to lose benefits when isht gets tight?
With states under pressure to cut their budgets and federal stimulus money gone, low-income working parents are facing a paradox. Just when they have to work longer hours to make ends meet, they are losing access to the thing they need most to stay on the job: a government subsidy that helps pay for child care.
The subsidy, a mix of federal and state funds that reimburses child care providers on behalf of families, is critical to the lives of poor women. But it has been eaten away over the years by inflation and growing need and recently by state budget cuts, leaving parents struggling to find other arrangements to stay employed.
“States have dropped their investment in child care substantially,” said Linda Saterfield, vice chairwoman of the National Association of State Child Care Administrators, who oversees child care for the state of Illinois. “We’re being expected to do more with less.” Her state has toughened eligibility for the subsidies and raised co-payments from families to cover the growing demand.
Sheontay Smith, a single mother in Baltimore, and her son are among nearly 8,000 families on a waiting list for the subsidy in Maryland. Pennsylvania’s list doubled since last year to more than 10,000 children, and Arkansas’s quadrupled to 11,000, according to the National Women’s Law Center.
At least two states, Arizona and Utah, are no longer appropriating state general funds for child care at all.
According to a recent report by the law center, families in 37 states were worse off this year than last year as waiting lists grew, co-payments rose, eligibility tightened and reimbursement rates for providers stagnated.
“We recognize that this is a tough time for states,” said Shannon Rudisill, who oversees the subsidy program at the Administration for Children and Families, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. “They have a hard set of choices that they have to negotiate.”
She said that President Obama had recommended an increase in the subsidy in the 2011 budget, but that it had not been approved by Congress. Stimulus money, which had raised financing by a fifth in 2009 and 2010, is now gone.
SMH at Republicans shutting down President Obama’s healthcare reform at any and every cost, including our children.
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