State to eliminate waiting list for employment child care

OLYMPIA - The perennially overloaded statewide waiting list for subsidized child care for working parents is about to be eliminated, Gov. Mike Lowry announced today.

"This is a major accomplishment for the state and good news for working parents," Lowry said. "This sends a signal that there is help for parents whose low wages might otherwise force them to choose between their job or their kids."

The state Employment Child Care program, operated out of the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), is available to low-income families who are not on welfare. To qualify for full subsidy, the gross income for a family of three cannot exceed $15,780 per year. On a sliding scale, the state pays part of the costs for the same family up to $21,588 per year.

From the late 1980s to early 1990s, the program grew from serving a monthly average of 2,963 children to serving 8,779 children. After a rapid growth in caseloads in 1992, the program was closed to new authorizations. The following summer, Employment Child Care was reopened by Gov. Lowry and demand for openings created waiting lists of nearly 6,000 children.

"We have come a long way since this program was closed, thanks to the commitment of DSHS workers and the Legislature," Lowry said. In 1996, the Legislature passed Lowry's $10 million supplemental budget request to reduce the waiting list. Due to better accounting and lower than anticipated costs, DSHS predicts it will eliminate the entire waiting list early this year, bringing to total 11,329 children served by the state.

"It is a pleasure to celebrate how far we've come on this issue, but the challenge ahead is to keep openings in the program for the many parents who will need child care in the future," Lowry said.

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For more information, contact the Governor's Communications Office at 360-753-6790.