Plan starts subsidy cuts to child-care programs


POSTED: Saturday, December 05, 2009
This story has been corrected. See below.


The director of the state Department of Human Services plans to reduce child-care and preschool subsidies for some families, despite requests to delay its implementation.

Department Director Lillian Koller said the state needs to start reducing payments by Jan. 1 or it could run out of funds by the end of February.

Koller plans to send the new subsidy payment schedule to Gov. Linda Lingle by next week, department spokeswoman Toni Schwartz said.

Speaking at a legislative hearing yesterday, Koller encouraged families affected by the cuts to seek alternatives to supplement their income, including state emergency grants and federal child-care money.

About 21 percent of the child-care subsidy goes to preschools, and the majority to child-care providers who are relatives.

Families now receive 80, 90 or 100 percent subsidization, depending on their income.

The new schedule would provide a 10-step, graduated scale, with subsidies ranging from 10 percent to 100 percent. Higher-income families would receive less.

Critics testified the new schedule would result in many families removing their children from preschool and some parents quitting their jobs to watch their children.

Some warned the change would have a domino effect, also resulting in layoffs of child-care workers and the closure of preschools.

“;There's room for improvement in the way it's rolled out,”; said Teresa Vast, a Kailua early-childhood policy consultant. “;Carrying out this proposal would be shortsighted.”;

Daisy Butay, a single parent from Maui, testified that under the new subsidy schedule, she would be required to pay $882 for child care rather than $192 for two children.

“;I won't be able to afford it,”; she said.

Taryn Chikamori, a single parent who works for the state as a secretary, said her pay has already been cut by state furloughs, and she will have to quit her job to watch her son because she cannot afford child care.

“;There is no one else to watch my son,”; she said.

State Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland (D, Kalihi-Liliha) said she felt Koller needed to sit down with the child-care communities to find a way to reduce the number of preschool closures.

“;Somehow there has to be a dialogue,”; Chun Oakland said.

State Sen. Norman Sakamoto (D, Salt Lake-Foster Village) said if a special session is called to deal with the state education budget, preschool subsidies might be included in the talks.





        » An earlier posting misspelled Teresa Vast's name and noted that she was from the Big Island.