You can’t afford child care without work, and you can’t work without child care. Child care subsidy programs are supposed to address this problem, but…
Parents across the nation are finding it even more difficult to go back to work, since many states are cutting critical child care subsidies, reports the New York Times. These programs were a part of the 1996 welfare reforms intended to move mothers off cash assistance and into jobs, but now due to cuts many mothers are having to seek cash assistance just to access the child care subsidy:
The cuts to subsidized child care challenge the central tenet of the welfare overhaul adopted in 1996, which imposed a five-year lifetime limit on cash assistance. Under the change, low-income parents were forced to give up welfare checks and instead seek paychecks, while being promised support — not least, subsidized child care — that would enable them to work.
Now, in this moment of painful budget cuts, with Arizona and more than a dozen other states placing children eligible for subsidized child care on waiting lists, only two kinds of families are reliably securing aid: those under the supervision of child protective services — which looks after abuse and neglect cases — and those receiving cash assistance.
Ms. Wallace abhors the thought of going on cash assistance, a station she associates with lazy people who con the system. Yet this has become the only practical route toward child care.
In our experience implementing the CareerAdvance program, we’ve found our parents’ ability to access the state DHS subsidy has been extremely time-consuming and difficult, and that many times the parents ultimately don’t qualify anyway. (CAP’s benefits screening program can help with this.) Furthermore, in the Oklahoma program parents are responsible for a flat monthly copay, which is based on income and number of children. That means that it doesn’t matter whether the parent needs care 2 hours per week or every day of the month – it will cost the same. That may work (to some extent) for working parents, but parents in education and training will often find that the copay is not only unaffordable but exceeds the cost of their child care needs in the first place. In other words, it is no subsidy at all.
Hat tip to our CAP colleague Amy Fain for sending me the NYT link.