Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

State stingily handing out federal funds for child care

Citizen Staff Writer
Our Opinion

You’d think Arizona’s working poor families had just scored big time, with the arrival of millions of federal child care dollars.

Alas, you’d think wrong.

Arizona has just received nearly $51 million for child care subsidies from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The funds are intended to cover two years.

But our Legislature has appropriated only $18 million of this money, far less than half of the full sum, for the first year.

The lawmakers wouldn’t even have done that much had it not been for Gov. Jan Brewer’s adamant insistence. On this issue, she really went to bat for Arizona’s working families.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for legislators.

Not only did they appropriate far less than is available for child care subsidies, but they also re-created a waiting list – for the first time in years – for families who need help with child care costs.

They did this even though they knew that $50.9 million in additional federal child care funding was on its way.

But that’s not all.

In this atrocious economy – in which small businesses throughout are struggling and failing – our Legislature also slashed reimbursements to child care providers by 5 percent.

It’s common knowledge that day care centers operate on very tight budgets. Their employees typically are paid less than a burger-flipper in a fast-food joint.

High-quality child care is available to Arizona families largely because centers’ workers care about children more than they care about making big money.

But the Legislature’s decision to cut child care center reimbursements by 5 percent undoubtedly will result in the closures of some centers.

These are businesses that have great challenges in the best of times. In this rocky economy, cutting their subsidies is simply pouring gasoline on the flames.

In essence, our lawmakers have delivered a one-two punch to working parents in our state:

• They’ve deprived many low-income families of child care subsidies, cavalierly ordering them to add their names to a waiting list.

• And they’ve ensured that some day care centers will close, making it doubly difficult for working families to find care for their children.

President Obama and Congress wanted to help families survive this recession. Brewer likewise understood that some families need help with kids’ care these days.

But shortsighted lawmakers are making Arizonans’ lives more difficult for no reason – because we have the money. They just won’t spend it.

Shame on them.

Legislature delivers a one-two punch to the working poor: lower child care subsidies and fewer day care centers.

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