PETULA DVORAK

Cutting D.C.'s child-care subsidy isn't the way to fix the city's budget

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Friday, December 10, 2010

The routine can be especially tough this time of year. The kids are sleepy, and it's barely dawn outside when they get to day care on these cold mornings.

And when Mom returns to pick them up, after a long day of balancing the books for a supermarket or running a doctor's office, it's dark again.

It's a grind, but it works.

And don't you mess with it, council people.

For the District's single working moms, good child care is what makes their world possible. They can work, bills get paid, life proceeds.

Take affordable day care away, and it all collapses like a cheap gingerbread house.

Yet this is exactly what the D.C. Council is thinking of doing to help close a $188 million budget gap, whittling away at an already shrunken program that subsidizes care for about 12,000 children of working parents.

The people who would suffer are those doing everything right. They are the last ones who should be targeted in a frenetic budget-cutting spree.

In the past three years, the city's child-care subsidies have been cut by $20 million. This week, officials proposed taking away $1.7 million more, said Ed Lazere of the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute.

It's a completely mixed message the city is sending, asking folks to stay employed or get a job in this horrendous market, while taking away the crucial tool that allows that to happen: affordable child care.

Take a moment to meet some of the women who rely on this subsidy to keep their jobs and keep the wheels turning. Their toddlers spend the day at the Kids Are Us Learning Center Too in Southeast Washington while they're at work.

These are not teen moms or high school dropouts. Most are in their late 20s or early 30s; many have held the same jobs for years.


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