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StarBulletin.com

Child care crunch


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POSTED: Saturday, November 21, 2009

Makiki single parent Tara Berry said she fears she might have to leave her job as a social worker if she is unable to afford a preschool fee and has to care during the workday for her 2 1/2-year-old son because of cuts in state child care subsidies.

Berry said her pay has been cut by state furloughs.

“;I can barely afford to pay what I pay right now,”; said Berry, who also is raising a 16-year-old son. “;It's going to affect me greatly.”;

As the state Department of Human Services considers major cuts in preschool subsidies affecting several thousands of children, parents are worried how they will get more money for additional child care expenses in a sour economy.

The department's proposal is scheduled to be discussed at a public hearing at 2:30 p.m. Monday in the Haseko Building, 820 Mililani Mall, Suite 606, Conference Room 2.

; State human service officials were unavailable for comment yesterday to explain the proposal or how much would be saved, because their offices were closed on a Furlough Friday.

The department's proposal affects 2,500 children receiving state subsidies and attending licensed preschools and also thousands of others who receive subsidies for their child care, families said.

Those deeply affected are the working poor, those employed but living on the edge with little or no financial reserves and who might have to leave their jobs to watch their children, preschool officials said.

Kathleen Cadiz, assistant director of the Family Services Center preschool in Kalihi, said 27 of the 47 children at her preschool received state subsidies, and many are low-income single parents.

“;Asking the families to pay more is going to really, really hurt them,”; she said.

“;We don't want to see the family pull out their children.”;

While the department has proposed a sliding scale for the subsidies, giving proportionately more to families with smaller incomes, the impact is as great for many of those who find themselves barely making a living.

Ron Saoit, a salesman and single parent of two children, one of whom is autistic, said he is already living “;from paycheck to paycheck”; and would have to come up with an additional $120 a month.

Saoit said he sees his only alternative as reducing his food budget.

Kapahulu resident Craig Morrison said he and his wife do not know where they will find an additional $538 in monthly preschool tuition if state officials move forward with cutting child care subsidies.

“;I don't mind paying $400 a month,”; he said. “;It's just a dramatic jump from $212 to $750.”;

Morrison, a property manager for a storage business, said he and his wife, who is a saleswoman in Waikiki, earn a gross income below $3,700 a month and are like many young working couples who are finding themselves stretched economically.

He said one couple living in their apartment complex is talking about leaving Hawaii if the proposal goes through.

Berry said she does not have family in Hawaii to take care of her 2 1/2 -year-old, and there are many in her situation.

“;It's going to be devastating for the parents and children,”; she said.