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10 Thousandth AZ Kid Turned Away From State Child Care Help

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December 4, 2009

PHOENIX - Arizona's waiting list for state subsidies to help working parents with child care has hit 10,000, or nearly one child for every three enrolled in the program. The state's huge budget deficit has prompted cuts of nearly $60 million to child care subsidies this year. As a result, those who are on the waiting lists at all - are waiting in vain, says Bruce Liggett, executive director of the Arizona Child Care Association.

"Nobody gets off the waiting list. It's really a misnomer; it's a 'turn-away list.' And starting back in February, the state, because of budget cuts, shut down the program for any new families coming in - but if a family leaves, they're not replaced."

Under the program, administered by the state's Department of Economic Security, parents pay for child care on a sliding-fee scale. But Liggett says he hears every day from child care operators about single parents having to give up their jobs to stay home with their children.

"People come in, they're on the DES waiting list, they're looking for child care; they can't pay on their own and they're being turned away. Child care is costly, and they need a subsidy to be able to go to work."

To Liggett, it makes economic sense to support a program that helps people keep their jobs, pay taxes and eventually work their way off state support.

"The average length of time on the program is only nine to eleven months. So, people advance in their careers and become self-sufficient."

Liggett is urging Governor Jan Brewer to make safe and stable child care a higher priority when deciding on budget cuts. The funding cuts have also resulted in other lost jobs, he adds, by forcing layoffs at child care centers and threatening some centers with closure.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ