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Child-Care Grant on Chopping Block in Upcoming Budget Talks

In Idaho, the average cost of child care for a four-year-old is between $5,800 and $8,000 a year. (Kyle Peyton/Flickr)
In Idaho, the average cost of child care for a four-year-old is between $5,800 and $8,000 a year. (Kyle Peyton/Flickr)
July 19, 2017

BOISE, Idaho - It remains to be seen whether congressional leaders will follow President Trump's lead in budget negotiations, but one cut proposed for next year's budget has advocates for Idaho's children concerned.

Around $95 million could be slashed from the Child Care and Development Block Grant. In Idaho, about 7,000 families a month rely on the grant to afford child-care costs. Beth Oppenheimer, who heads the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children, said the grant also funds IdahoSTARS, a program that currently trains 4,200 child-care providers in the state.

"That means that 4,200 individual child-care providers are accessing training specifically around health, safety and early-childhood development," she said, "so that they are better able to serve and care for our youngest children."

The Child Care and Development Block Grant was reauthorized in 2014 with bipartisan support. In order to meet the goals of the reauthorization and serve the same number of children nationwide, Oppenheimer said, the grant needs an additional $1.4 billion in fiscal year 2018.

According to a new report from Child Care Aware, child-care costs in Idaho often are higher than the average cost of public college tuition, which is about $6,800 a year. The average annual cost of care for a 4-year-old is between $5,800 and $8,000. Oppenheimer said families surviving on minimum-wage jobs simply can't afford that.

"The Child Care Development block grant helps to kind of offset that cost for child care for families that are working," she said.

In order to receive assistance, Oppenheimer said, parents must be employed or going to school. She added that the issue of child care also affects the country's economy.

"We want to grow our economy, we want to support our economy across the country," she said, "and if we don't have affordable, quality child care that families can access, families can't work."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID