A subsidized day care program for low- and middle-income families that might not qualify for other assistance has been launched in Montgomery County as part of County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist's program to expand child care services in the county.

The Working Parents Assistance Program, funded to provide $1.8 million in subsidies for about 825 children, has been extended to 150 children since it was begun recently.

The program operates on a voucher system that allows families with incomes of up to $35,000 -- families that might earn too much to get help from the state -- to select centers at their convenience.

As federal funding for such activities declines, the county government is also increasing its spending on nutritional programs, day care centers and subsidies for day care enrollment.

Subsidy program director Millie Grant said the grants are available to parents who are working, seeking work or enrolled in school.

"This is really something for people who are in a transition, who are working toward independence, but need a little help before they can be completely on their own," Grant said.

She said the Department of Family Resources subsidy program has been "overwhelmed by applicants."

Many are single parents, she said, but even where there are two wage-earners in a family, they "cannot make it in the county."

Grant said the program attempts to subsidize about 90 percent of monthly child care bills. Full-time child care in a center typically costs from about $60 to $80 a week in Montgomery, she said.

"There are an awful lot of people who make just a little too much to be eligible for other subsidies, but don't make enough to really get by, and keep working while their kids are in day care. We want them to keep working," Grant said.

One participant, Dawn M. May of Montgomery Village, separated from her husband last month and now supports her four children.

"As a two-salary family we could keep the kids in day care while we worked, but I couldn't do it alone," she said.

May said that her job as a computer program analyst in Rockville pays "slightly too much" to make her eligible for many day care subsidies.

May said that with a $1,100 monthly day care bill and $700 a month in rent, "I just panicked.

"There wasn't any way I could pay it and I couldn't give up my job to take care of the kids," she said. "I began to think we wouldn't eat or something."

She said that she will use the subsidies until she begins receiving the child support payments from her husband.

"I just needed some help at a tough time . . . . This program helped me out," she said.