Baby-sitting budget

March 26, 2006

FOR LOW — For low- and moderate-income families, especially those headed by single, working mothers, affordable child care is essential if they are to stay off welfare. That's why federal child care assistance programs for low-wage workers are widely considered smart public policy. But the goal of these programs could be undermined by budget cuts proposed by the Bush administration that would reduce discretionary funding for child care assistance programs nationally by $1 billion - $13.1 million in Maryland - over the next five years. At least 400,000 children nationally, very likely more, no longer would receive subsidized care as a result.

The administration should reconsider this funding reduction and look for other cost-saving options.

Finding adequate and affordable child care is a serious problem for working poor families struggling to remain self-sufficient, and it's a leading reason some working mothers cycle in and out of jobs, or decide not to seek work and rely instead on public assistance. Helping them pay for child care should be a priority at a time when the Bush administration is trying to coax those remaining on the nation's dwindling welfare rolls into the job market. By doing so, the government also would help working parents keep jobs longer, earn more income over time and eventually afford to pay for all - or larger portions of - their child care costs themselves.

Cutting funding for child care assistance is one more budgetary assault on much-needed domestic programs. It comes on top of a separate five-year freeze, at 2006 levels, on mandatory spending on child care assistance through welfare and other entitlement programs. Social service agencies and women's advocacy groups around the country are rightly questioning whether these and other recent budget decisions indicate a decreased federal commitment to subsidized child care. President Bush should be striving to help working parents afford safe and decent child care, not making that task more difficult for them. Congress should reject the proposed cut.

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