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Senate leader: Scheduled cut to child care averted

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on Jan. 28, 2011 at 11:42 am |
January 28, 2011 3:36 pm

3:30 p.m. UPDATE:

Gregoire’s office confirmed she has canceled the rule change that would have taken effect Tuesday.

The $13 million in cuts will have to be found somewhere else in the welfare budget, and those haven’t been finalized yet. They could include some version of the cap on child care income that is being canceled for now.

“The deal isn’t fully cooked yet,” Gregoire spokeswoman Karina Shagren said.

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Gov. Chris Gregoire has agreed to cancel a cut she had ordered to government-subsidized child care, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown said today. But it could be back in the next budget period.

The $13 million cut, due to take effect Tuesday, essentially would have started phasing state government out of the business of helping parents with steady jobs pay for day care.

The governor’s office hasn’t yet confirmed it to me, but Brown says Gregoire agreed in a meeting Thursday afternoon to instead make other cuts in welfare programs, including charging parents higher co-pays for child care.

If the original cut were to go through, the state would turn away new applicants for Working Connections Child Care unless they are so poor they are eligible for welfare. Each month, officials predict roughly 1,600 families who would otherwise have received child care subsidies would be ineligible.

Legislative leaders like Brown oppose it and unionized day-care workers from the politically powerful Service Employees International Union have flooded hearings to complain about it. House members even attached a mandate to their budget bill to cancel the cut, but governors can veto such provisos.

To deal with a deficit in welfare programs, Gregoire has already cut the income level required to qualify for child care subsidies from 200 percent of the poverty level to 175 percent, sending some 2,500 families packing.

Under the order that was supposed to take effect Tuesday, new families couldn’t make more than 82 percent of the poverty level, and would have to meet other qualifications that determine eligibility for welfare. Families currently in the system would be grandfathered in, though.

That 82 percent level is around $15,000 a year for a single parent with two children — less than the minimum wage. Fewer than 41 percent of those now enrolled in the child care program would meet those requirements.

Gregoire, not the Legislature, controls the welfare budget, and she could make a similar cut for the next two-year spending cycle.  If she doesn’t, she will have to make $62 million in cuts somewhere else.

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