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Proposed Washington day-care subsidy cuts draw protest

"If we lose a third of the kids who are on Working Connections, we will be forced to close our child care business," said Tamra Dschaak, standing, a Spokane family child care provider on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Angel Fairbanks of Spokane worries that if proposed cuts in the state’s child care subsidy for working families are enacted by the Legislature, she will no longer be able to work.

“I would be forced to leave my job and rely more heavily on the state for assistance,” said Fairbanks, a single mother, whose 5-year-old daughter Angela attends day care three days a week.

Angela’s care-giver, Tamra Dschaak, says that if she lost state-subsidized clients like Fairbanks, she would have to close down her day care, which serves 12 families in Spokane’s West Central neighborhood.

“This means the loss of my small business to this community and our state and the loss of jobs for both me and my husband,” Dschaak said.

Both women spoke Thursday at a news conference at Dschaak’s home. The event was arranged by the Rebuilding Our Economic Future Coalition, a group of organizations opposed to further state cuts in education, health care and social services.

The coalition cited $88.5 million in proposed cuts to the Working Connections Child Care program in Gov. Chris Gregoire’s mandatory balanced-budget proposal, which even the governor has said she hopes is never adopted.

Gregoire has since revised her proposed cuts to the program to $49 million, said Amy Blonding, spokeswoman for the Department of Early Learning. The program serves about 65,000 families statewide each year.

In Spokane, the local coalition said the initial level would have reduced child care subsidies by one-third, forcing about a third of Spokane County’s 860 family-owned child care providers to close.

Eligibility for the subsidy is determined by a working family’s income. For example, a family of three with a monthly income of $1,675 would be responsible for a $50-a-month child-care co-payment.

Blondin said that the current budget proposal would ensure that families currently enrolled in the program could remain in it. For new applicants, eligibility requirements would be adjusted to ensure access for the lowest-income families, those with children in the child-welfare system or children with disabilities.



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