Budget Cuts to Child Care Biggest in Decades, Advocates Say

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's budget proposal includes cutting close to 17,000 child care subsidies for kids in low-income families in what child advocates call the single biggest cut to child care since the 1970s. 

Currently, about 100,000 low-income families receive child care subsidies. Roughly half of those families are on welfare and are exempt from cuts because federal rules protect them. That means working poor parents will bare the brunt of the cuts.

The city said families losing their subsidy have been in the system on average 8.6 years. Betty Holcomb, of Center for Children's Initiatives, said eliminating these slots is a step backward and will transform the system into one that only serves the most desperate.

"This will leave thousands of parents scrambling to figure out how are they going to get to work, and without a child care subsidy they're going to have to make tough choices in the family budget," Holcomb said.

The city said a $91 million childcare deficit is partly due to an increase in healthcare costs for child care providers. Plus, there's been an increase in younger children in the system and more families using regulated centers, both of which are more expensive. In addition the city says it's losing $29 million dollars in federal stimulus funds and $11 million dollars in state funds.

City Council members have vowed to fight the cut, though letters to families have already been mailed out.  Child care advocates call the reduction a short sighted decision that will end up costing more in the long run.